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VOL. 122 | NO. 117 | Monday, June 25, 2007

Bredesen unhappy with selection process, not Supreme Court choice

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) -Gov. Phil Bredesen may have been unhappy with the acrimonious process of selecting a fifth justice for the state Supreme Court, but he says he's pleased with his final choice of Appeals Judge William C. Koch Jr.

"That whole process was one that irritated me, but I will say that Bill Koch is a very qualified justice," Bredesen said.

"My complaints about the process are in no way a criticism of the individual, who is a fine individual and will be a fine Supreme Court justice."

Under the Tennessee Plan for choosing justices adopted in 1994, the governor chooses new justices from a three-person slate compiled by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Bredesen, a Democrat, earlier this year criticized the commission for giving him what he said was not the best-qualified slate. But the governor acknowledged he was required by law to select one candidate from the panel.

"I'm stuck with them," he said in April.

Koch, of Nashville, was among the three, along with Circuit Judge D'Army Bailey of Memphis and Circuit Judge C. Creed McGinley of Savannah. There were 16 applicants for the job.

Koch served as counsel to Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander, who named him to the Court of Appeals in 1984. He was among the final two candidates to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2005, after a third member of the panel withdrew his name from consideration.

Bredesen ultimately chose Connie Clark, then the state Supreme Court administrative director and a former circuit judge.

"I know that was a huge disappointment for him," Bredesen said this week. "It was at a time when he did not necessarily think there would be any other positions coming open, and he handled it with an enormous amount of class.

"He came to the swearing-in for the person who was chosen and that kind of thing tells me a lot about a person's character," Bredesen said.

Koch in 2006 persuaded members of the Tennessee Judicial Evaluation Commission to reverse an earlier decision not to recommend him for another term on the state Court of Appeals bench.

Koch acknowledged he was too slow in writing his opinions and had too many outside commitments. He told commission members that he took too much time writing "$20,000 opinions for $10,000 cases," and promised to speed up his work rate.

The vacancy on the five-member Supreme Court was created by the retirements of Justices E. Riley Anderson and Adolpho A. Birch Jr.

Bredesen appointed Criminal Appeals Judge Gary R. Wade to fill one of the openings in June 2006.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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