Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Jeffrey Bivens is actively campaigning in favor of the Amendment 2 ballot referendum state voters will decide in November. Amendment 2 is a proposal to alter the state’s constitution to formally legitimize a system of “retention elections” for appellate and state Supreme Court judges.
Bivens, who gave an interview to TNReport after delivering a pro-Amendment 2 speech before the Tennessee Farm Bureau on Aug. 14, fears competitive elections featuring more than one candidate for appellate-level judgeships would invite exorbitant campaign-spending from special-interest groups looking to “buy the influence of the judges.”
Asked if he’s bothered by the fact that Tennessee lawyers appear to have constituted the largest special-interest group that gave money over the past six months to the “coordinated campaign” of the three Supreme Court justices who won retention on Aug. 7, Bivins suggested that at least with respect to in-state campaign spending, there’s “full disclosure” as to “who’s giving what,” which isn’t necessarily the case when out-of-state money flows into a campaign.
“Certainly, there can be an argument made that lawyers are having to give in that instance, even when they’re appearing in front of the court. And is it a perfect system? No. But, if you go to a contested partisan race, the issue is going to become multiplied many times over, because you’re going to have lawyers having to give more and more money,” Bivins continued. “So, is either a perfect system? No, and that’s part of the reason I don’t like what happened in this past election. But it’s certainly a better system than we would have if we had direct partisan elections for appellate positions.”