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VOL. 125 | NO. 23 | Thursday, February 4, 2010

Judicial Nominating Commission Seeks Leader

By Bill Dries

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The state commission that recommends finalists for judicial vacancies has a vacancy of its own.

Bill Young of Chattanooga is acting chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission following the resignation of former JNC Chairman David Bautista of Johnson City.

Bautista resigned in January after police in Elizabethton arrested him for driving under the influence. In his letter of resignation, Bautista wrote that he was giving up the post “due to a myriad of other commitments.”

Bautista made his first court appearance on the DUI charge this week in Elizabethton.

Mary Helen Beard of Memphis is the acting vice chairwoman.

Back to drawing board

The 17-member JNC is the successor to the old Judicial Selection Commission, which performed the same basic service of recommending lists of three finalists to the governor for appointment to state judicial vacancies. The governor can choose from the first list of nominees, or request a second list; however, a nominee must be chosen from the second list.

The difference in the two bodies is in who appoints the various members of the commission.

Bautista was appointed by state House speaker Kent Williams in August as a commissioner from East Tennessee. He was selected as the first chairman of the body in September. Williams will fill the vacancy with another East Tennessean.

Like with the selection of judges, there is an application process and deadline to consider candidates for the JNC vacancy.

The Administrative Office of the Courts, whose Web site is www.tncourts.gov, is accepting applications through Wednesday, followed by a 14-day period for public comment on the applicants. Then Williams has another two weeks to make his choice.

Whoever gets the nod will serve the remainder of Bautista’s term, which runs through June 2015.

A do-over

Young’s elevation to chairman was one of several actions the JNC took at its January meeting. The group also approved its bylaws and a new nine-page application that candidates for judicial vacancies must complete.

The bylaws have been changed to require that any finalist for a vacancy must have nine votes.

Previously, the requirement had been a majority of those present at a meeting. The nine-vote requirement is a majority of the entire body as opposed to those present at a meeting.

Other bylaw changes amounted to formalizing what was already in state law, according to Laura Click, public information officer for the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Administrative Officer of the Courts.

The application is the beginning of an arduous process that includes public hearings in which anyone can express an opinion on the merits of a candidate.

Meanwhile, the commission has sent to Gov. Phil Bredesen a list of three finalists for a judicial vacancy following the resignation of Shelby County Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey.

Bredesen has not yet acted on the recommendations. They are:

  • Venita Marie Martin of Memphis, a member of Glankler Brown PLLC;
  • JoeDae L. Jenkins of Bartlett, in private practice;
  • Rhynette Northcross Hurd, of Collierville, in private practice.

In addition to Beard, who is an attorney for FedEx Corp., the other West Tennesseans on the Judicial Nominating Commission are:

  • Christopher S. Campbell, of Memphis, an attorney at Harris, Shelton, Hanover Walsh PLLC, appointed by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey;
  • C. Barry Ward, of Memphis, an attorney at Glankler Brown PLLC, appointed by Williams;
  • Lewis Jenkins Jr., of Dyersburg, an attorney at Wilkerson, Gauldin, Hayes & Jenkins, appointed by Ramsey;
  • Edward L. Martindale Jr., of Jackson, an attorney in private practice, appointed by Williams.

The JNC members are appointed to six-year terms, with some members serving only once to stagger the terms.

Beard is serving a full six-year term. Ward and Jenkins each are serving four-year terms.

Campbell and Martindale each are serving for two years.

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