Tennessee Judicial Selection, Amendment 2 (2014)
|Referred by:||Tennessee State Legislature|
|Status:||On the ballot|
- 1 Text of measure
- 2 Background
- 3 Support
- 4 Opposition
- 5 Path to the ballot
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 Additional reading
- 9 References
The Tennessee Judicial Selection, Amendment 2 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Tennessee as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would empower the governor to appoint judges to the supreme court and courts of appeal subject to confirmation by the general assembly. The appointed judge would serve an eight-year term. Thereafter, the judge could serve another term via a retention election by voters.
Text of measure
The official ballot text reads as follows:
|“|| Shall Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentences and by substituting instead the following:
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. Confirmation by default occurs if the Legislature fails to reject an appointee within sixty calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session. The Legislature is authorized to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out Sections two and three of this article.
|“||ESTIMATED FISCAL IMPACT:
The Tennessee Constitution states, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” Since 1971, however, the state has had a merit-selection process for judiciaries. The Judicial Selection Committee has selected nominees for appellate courts starting in 1994. The governor then selects judges from those nominees and constituents vote whether or not to retain them. This arrangement has been known as the "Tennessee Plan." Amendment 2 would dismantle the Judicial Selection Committee. The proposed arrangement is known as the "Modified Federal Plan."
The organization leading the campaign in support of the initiative is Vote Yes on 2.
The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-31) and Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-1).
- Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D)
- Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R)
- Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (R)
- Tennessee Bar Association
- Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
- Tennessee Business Roundtable
- Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation
- Beacon Center of Tennessee
- Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council
- Tennessee Business Partnership
- Tennessee Bankers Association
- Fraternal Order of Police, Tennessee
- Women’s Political Collaborative
- Tennessee Hospital Association
- Greater Memphis Chamber
- League of Women Voters
- Memphis Bar Association
- Nashville Bar Association
- Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce
- Kingsport Chamber of Commerce
- Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
- Knoxville Chamber
- Chattanooga Area Chamber
- Chattanooga Bar Association
Vote Yes on 2 video ad advocating for Amendment 2.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R) co-wrote an op-ed outlining supporting arguments for Amendment 2:
- “A stable and impartial judiciary is vitally important to all of us. But in recent years, there have been numerous legal challenges to the way we in Tennessee select our appellate court judges. These continuing challenges, and the confusion they create, threaten to destabilize and weaken our judiciary and our state.”
- “Passing Amendment #2 will put an end to the questions and will help ensure we get the most qualified, diverse, fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and deserve.”
- "Amendment #2 gives Tennesseans three powerful votes in the selection of our appellate judges:
- By voting for the governor, who will make the appointments.
- By voting for our state senators and representatives, who will confirm or reject the appointments.
- By voting to keep or fire the judges at the end of their respective terms."
- "Passing Amendment #2 will help keep the influence of special interest money away from our judges and out of our state."
Other arguments in favor of the amendment include:
- Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) argued that contested elections for the judiciary would allow special and financial interests to become involved. He said, “Suddenly you get at the last minute somebody on there who’s promised to, I don’t know, stop all abortions or something like that. You get just a lot of outside money coming into elections. You can do that to a governor or to a congressman, but I think it’s particularly effective and dangerous with races that people are generally not interested in.”
- Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-31) suggested the nation’s founding figures developed a similar plan to the one proposed. He noted, “The people of Tennessee are not presently voting for judges in open contested elections. And the people of Tennessee have never been asked whether or not they favor following the judicial selection plan that our founding fathers of the U.S. Constitution came up with. Let’s give them the chance to vote on that.”
- Bret Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, stated, “It is troubling that Tennessee legislators are pursuing a constitutional amendment that would inject partisan politics into the state’s judicial selection process. For many years, Tennesseans have benefited from a process for picking judges that focuses on qualifications, not partisan politics. SJR 02 would replace the highly regarded ‘Tennessee Plan’ with a Washington-style system that gives the Governor unilateral authority to pick judges, and subjects confirmations to DC-style gridlock and backroom deals.”
Path to the ballot
- See also: Amending the Tennessee Constitution
The Tennessee General Assembly was required to approve the amendment in two successive sessions. In the first session, the measure required a simple majority for approval. In the second session, the proposed amendment needed to earn a two-thirds vote for approval. SJR 2 was approved by the Tennessee Senate for a second time on February 21, 2013. SJR 2 was approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives for a second time on March 11, 2013.
February 21, 2013 Senate vote
|Tennessee SJR 2 Senate Vote|
March 11, 2013 House vote
|Tennessee SJR 2 House Vote|
- The Tribune, "Panel that evaluates state's appellate judges often works outside public view," March 15, 2014
- Tennessee General Assembly, "Bill Information for SJR0002," accessed January 23, 2014
- KnoxNews, "House approves referendum on appointing judges, agrees to cut per diem," March 12, 2013
- Tennessee Secretary of State, "Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 for the November 4, 2014 General Election Ballot," accessed June 12, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Tennessee Legislature, "Senate Joint Resolution 2," accessed January 23, 2014
- Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee, "SJR 2 Fiscal Note," accessed April 16, 2014
- The Columbia Daily Herald, "Tennesseans to vote on abortion, tax and judicial selection amendments," January 5, 2014
- 'Nashville Post, "Bredesen, Slatery ask biz community to support appellate judge selection amendment," January 15, 2014
- Vote Yes on 2, "Homepage," accessed July 25, 2014
- The Tennessean, "Haslam, Bredesen join forces to preserve TN's judicial selection process," January 21, 2014
- The Tennessean, "Vote Yes on 2 is best path for judicial selection," April 29, 2014
- Knoxville News Sentinel, "Political notebook: Alexander backs proposed amendments on Tennessee ballot," July 21, 2014
- Nashville Public Radio, "Judicial Selection May Be The One Thing These Tennessee Politicos Agree On," accessed April 30, 2014
- The Commercial Appeal, "Campaign for judicial constitutional amendment goes public Tuesday," April 28, 2014
- Knoxville Daily Sun, "Tennessee Bar Association backs constitutional amendment on judicial election," November 16, 2014
- Vote Yes on 2, "Endorsing Organizations," accessed July 25, 2014
- Nashville City Paper, "Senate OKs amending state constitution to change how judges are selected," February 21, 2013
- WatchDog.Org, "Tennessee groups fight over state elections of judges," February 4, 2014
- Justice at Stake, "JAS: Proposed Amendment to Tennessee Constitution Would Politicize Judicial Selection," accessed March 11, 2013
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