Tennessee's judicial retention elections are upheld by specially appointed court

Tennessee’s retention system of judicial elections does not violate the state constitution, according to a specially appointed state supreme court panel.

The court ruled (PDF) in a challenge to the so-called Tennessee plan, in which the governor fills judicial vacancies from a list submitted by a nominating commission, report the Associated Press and the Chattanoogan. Appeals judges then run for election or re-election on a yes-no vote.

The five-member Special Supreme Court ruled against the challenge by John Jay Hooker, a former Democratic candidate for governor who claimed the Tennessee Constitution required judges to run in a contested election.

The Special Supreme Court said the yes-no voting process satisfied state constitutional requirements that judges “shall be elected by the qualified voters.” The court did not reach a different question—whether the judicial nominating commission was unconstitutional—because the statute authorizing that process expired in 2013 and the issue is moot. The legislature now proposes a constitutional amendment eliminating the Tennessee plan, which goes before voters in November.

The Special Supreme Court also upheld statewide election of judges to the Tennessee Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee. Hooker had claimed those judges should be elected by voters only in their districts.

The state’s governor appointed the Special Supreme Court to hear the case after all five current justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court recused themselves, the stories say.

Related coverage:

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