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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tennessee Endorses New Judicial-Selection Rules

(CN) - Voters in Tennessee approved an amendment to the state constitution that establishes a new procedure for appointing appellate judges in the event of a judicial vacancy.

The measure, which passed by a margin of 20 percentage points, empowers the governor to appoint state appellate court judges, and the legislature to either confirm or reject the selections. After that, voters will choose whether to keep or fire the judges in retention elections at the end of their terms.

The amendment replaces language in the state constitution that read: "The Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State."

It will now say: "Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state.

The amendment's approval affects the selection of the five state supreme court justices, 12 Tennessee Court of Appeals judges and 12 judges for the state's criminal appeals court. It does not change the way trial court judges are selected. They are still chosen in local elections.

John Avery Emison, spokesman for Vote No on 2, which opposed the procedural change, thanked supporters in a statement on their Facebook group page Wednesday morning.

"A special thank you to the 533,522 Tennesseans who took a principled stand with us to oppose the surrender of our voting rights to the governor. Obviously, we are in the minority on this issue but there are lots of us! Doing the right thing has its own rewards regardless of the outcome," Emison wrote. "Although we lost to the overwhelming power of special interest money -- 'Yes' outspent us 30-to-1 -- our campaign was conducted in a forthright manner without moral equivocation of the issues."

Tennessee voters also approved three other constitutional amendments Tuesday - a permanent state income tax ban, a controversial amendment restricting abortions, and another authorizing fundraising lottery for certain organizations.

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