Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt.Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced a joint proposal to address how judges are chosen in Tennessee.
The three stood together for the announcement during a press conference in the Executive Conference Room of the State Capitol where they outlined the plan that includes a resolution to amend the Tennessee Constitution that would apply to all Supreme Court justices and other appellate judges saying that they:
* Will be nominated by a commission based on merit;
* Will be appointed by the Governor; and
* Will be elected in a retention election as they are today.
Legislation will be filed to extend the Judicial Nominating Commission and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission until at least 2015, which allows appropriate time for the constitutional amendment to be considered with the goal of avoiding any additional confusion.
"It is great to stand here today with Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Speaker Harwell to announce our proposal together," Haslam said. "I believe the current process has worked well during my time in office, and I've been pleased with both the quality of candidates and the process for choosing them. The judiciary is the third and equal branch of government, and we are here to make this recommendation because we believe it is important for our Constitution to clearly reflect the reality of how we select judges in Tennessee."
"The importance of a highly functioning and independent judicial branch is crucial to the small, efficient government our unified Republican majority continues to bring to Tennessee," Ramsey said. "Our current method of choosing judges is a very good system, but it is not constitutional. This effort will ensure that we finally have a constitutional method of choosing judges. I am proud to stand with the governor and the speaker in favor of a judicial selection process that is fair, effective and constitutional."
"I am proud to join today with Governor Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ramsey to offer this solution on the issue of judicial elections," Harwell said. "I am confident that what we are proposing today will maintain the integrity of the judicial system while respecting the state's constitution. I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless work and dedication regarding the issue of judicial selection in Tennessee."