2 Tennessee Governors Join Forces to Preserve the Judicial Selection Process

January 21, 2014

Gov. Bill Haslam and former Gov. Phil Bredesen are joining forces in a drive to keep selections of state appellate judges in the hands of governors — and out of the reach of political donors.

Haslam’s Republican administration plans to support a campaign to win passage of a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on ballots statewide this fall. The measure would give a constitutional stamp of approval to the controversial “Tennessee Plan,” which allows governors to appoint appellate judges, who then stand for typically routine yes-or-no retention elections every eight years.

“The governor supports the measure and will advocate for it,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said Monday.

Critics of the Tennessee Plan say it lets judges on the state’s Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals operate with no accountability to voters. Nashville attorney John Jay Hooker has sued the state over the plan, arguing that the state constitution plainly requires contested elections.

But Bredesen, a Democrat who was governor from 2003 to 2011, said judges could be accountable to special interests with big pockets if voters were to decide who sits on the bench.

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