House OKs Judicial Selection Plan on 70-24 Vote

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal to change the Tennessee Constitution to give the Legislature power to reject the governor's appointments to the state Supreme Court justices cleared the House on Thursday.

The House voted 70-27 in favor of the resolution sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol. The Senate passed the measure on a 23-8 vote earlier this week.

Under the current Tennessee judicial selection method, a commission nominates judges, the governor appoints them and voters cast ballots either for or against keeping them on the bench. While the system has withstood legal challenges, critics say it conflicts with language in the state constitution that says Supreme Court justices "shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state."

Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican speakers of the House and Senate earlier this year declared their support for a constitutional amendment to underscore the current system, but lawmakers preferred getting rid of the nominating panel and giving the Legislature the added power to deny the governor's appointments within 60 days.

The Republican governor has said he doesn't oppose the confirmation model.

The resolution would have to be again approved by both chambers by a two-thirds majority within the next two-year General Assembly before it could be put before the voters in 2014.

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said during the floor debate that he still plans to push for allowing contested elections of Supreme Court justices when their terms end in August 2014 – two months before any proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters.

Lundberg said such a move would be confusing to members of the legislative and judicial branches, as well as to the general electorate. A similar proposal by Casada failed in a House committee this year.


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