In his first speech after become Tennessee’s new attorney general on Oct. 1, Herb Slatery talks about “the wisdom of the authors of our constitution,” who awarded the state Supreme Court authority for appointing an attorney general. It is a process unlike any in the country.
In a press conference later, Slatery was asked why he thinks the framers of the Tennessee Constitution got it right with regard to the attorney-general selection process they devised, yet got it wrong when they mandated direct popular elections of Supreme Court justices. Like most of Tennessee’s political and legal establishment, Slatery supports the Amendment 2 ballot question that proposes doing away with existing language in the state’s guiding document that declares, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” If approved by voters, the old provision will be replaced with new wording that outlines a system in which the governor appoints members of the Supreme Court and appellate courts. Those judges would then be subject to confirmation by both houses of the General Assembly. If confirmed, at some point later the judges would appear unopposed on ballots in retention elections.