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VOL. 125 | NO. 243 | Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ex-GOP Lawmaker Bunch Named Administrative Judge

AP

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NASHVILLE (AP) – A former state lawmaker who was a vocal critic of Tennessee's laws on appointing judges has been named an administrative law judge.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports for Tuesday's editions that Republican Sen. Dewayne Bunch of Cleveland has been appointed an administrative law judge by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a fellow former state lawmaker.

The job pays nearly $98,000 per year.

Bunch, whom the newspaper could not reach for comment, is the latest former lawmaker to be named to a high paying job by GOP colleagues.

Former House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol was hired as a $125,000-per-year executive assistant to Comptroller Justin Wilson, and former Rep. Joe McCord of Maryville was named clerk to presumptive House Speaker Beth Harwell. McCord's salary has not yet been set, but his predecessor made more than $161,000 annually.

Bunch will not be based in Nashville, as is the current practice for administrative law judges.

"This is something new," Hargett spokesman Blake Fontenay confirmed in an e-mail. "Historically, the administrative law judges have been based in Nashville but ... our expectation is that by having Sen. Bunch based in East Tennessee, it will cut down on travel time and travel expenses."

As a Senator, Bunch was a major proponent of failed efforts to have Supreme Court justices and appeals judges elected in popular elections. Under current law, a judicial selection commission whittles down the pool of applicants and the governor appoints them to the bench.

Bunch charged "special interests" controlled the appointments and that the system violates the Tennessee Constitution.

"I do find it ironic that he spent a great amount of time railing against appointed judges and now has himself been selected by a former legislator to serve as a judge," said Democratic State Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga.

Berke said he's concerned about the trend of former lawmakers moving to other areas of state government.

"We've just got to be on the lookout to make sure these are qualified people who can serve the state and not cronyism," he said.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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