Press Releases

Ramsey Tips Deadlocked Committee in Favor of Electing Judges

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, March 29, 2011:

(Nashville) — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey today cast the tie-breaking vote to advance a bill requiring the election of all judges in the State of Tennessee, including appellate and Supreme Court justices. The 4 to 4 tie occurred in Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee meeting on Senate Bill 127. Lt. Governor Ramsey broke the tie by voting in favor of the bill.

Ramsey took the step because he believes state constitution currently demands that judges “shall be elected” in the state of Tennessee.

“It is clear that we need judicial reform in Tennessee,” said Ramsey. “I don’t necessarily think that electing judges is best for the state in the long term but the constitution is the constitution and the constitution clearly states that judges shall be elected.”

The state currently operates under the “Tennessee Plan” which allows the governor to appoint judges from a select list of candidates from a nominating commission. Judges then stand for what is called a “retention election” where votes make a yes or no decision on whether a judge keeps their job. While the constitutionality of the plan has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, many legal scholars dispute the ruling.

“My hope is that my actions today will spur those who recognize the need for reform to craft a constitutional judicial solution in an expeditious manner,” Ramsey continued. “Either we change the constitution or we change the Tennessee Plan. Sooner or later, this has to be addressed. I prefer sooner.”

The last time Lt. Gov. Ramsey entered a committee to break a tie was in 2009. Senate Bill 127 moves next to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.

4 replies on “Ramsey Tips Deadlocked Committee in Favor of Electing Judges”

Judges may be appointed but I reserve the right to kick them out of office if they start making their own laws and not upholding the constitution. To bad we don’t have the same situation with our Federal and Supreme Court judges.

I don’t think anyone judge should be appointed for life. We all know that as we get older, we have lapses in judgement, and judges age just like the rest of us. There needs to be some restrictions: term limits, elections. I think Lt. Gov. Ramsey made the right decision. This needs to be addressed now.

There are no lifetime appointments at the state level in Tennessee. State Appellate Judges are elected in TN by yes no vote. They are only appointed to fill a vacancy and then they must stand for election, by yes/no retention vote. They are first vetted by a bipartisan committee before the names of those who have applied go to the governor. Then the judge who holds office goes on the ballot EVERY EIGHT YEARS. By popularly electing appellate judges, letting anyone who can get enough money behind them to run, you get politicians who have the money to run big campaigns. They’ll spend half their time in office RUNNING to get re-elected. What you want on the court of appeals and supreme court are LEGAL SCHOLARS not politicians who will then owe the people who put them there. It needs to stay like it is, it has actually worked fine on the appellate level in Tennessee.

The Retention Election Statute TCA 17-4-101 et seq. is blatantly unconstitutional because it provides that the Governor shall make appointments to fill a “vacancy” for both the eight year term and any unexpired term occasioned by death or otherwise in direct violation of the Constitutional provisions which require that all “vacancies” for the full term and the unexpired term be filled by an election (see Article VI Section 3, 4 and Article VII Section 4, 5). In other words the Legislature has “no power” to give the Governor the power to appoint Judges to fill a “vacancy” because the Constitution “directs” that all “vacancies” be filled by an election by the people. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the aforesaid claim.

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