Haslam Won't Join Campaign To Defeat Tennessee Supreme Court Justices

May 9, 2014

Credit The Jackson Sun

Tennessee's top Senate Republican and others are launching a campaign to defeat three Tennessee Supreme Court justices in retention elections this summer. But Gov. Bill Haslam said he won't join that effort.

Speaking to reporters this week, Haslam said he would concentrate instead on a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way Tennessee's judges are selected. Joining the August retention election campaign, Haslam said, would "muddy the waters" on the ballot issue in November.

The three justices - Chief Justice Gary Wade, Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark -- were all appointed by Democratic former Governor Phil Bredesen. Bredesen and Haslam have joined forces to support the proposed constitutional amendment slated for the November ballot.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has met with business leaders, victims' rights advocates and other groups as part of the campaign to defeat Wade, Lee and Clark, the Associated Press reported. Ramsey said the goal of the effort is to prevent Tennessee judges from serving lifetime appointments to the state's highest court.

Asked about Ramsey's participation, Haslam said the Speaker had the right to make his case. "It's just not going to be something I'm going to be taking part in," he said.

The proposed constitutional amendment supported by Haslam and Bredesen - Amendment Two - calls for a slightly modified judicial selection process in Tennessee. The governor would still retain the authority to pick judges for nomination, and the judges would still be subject to retention elections to keep their seats on the bench. A key difference is in the approval process. Mirroring the method the federal government uses to select judges, the Tennessee General Assembly would get the final say on Haslam's selections.