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Voters to Decide Constitutional Amendment on Judicial Selection

Kelsey’s ‘Founding Fathers Plan Plus’ clears final legislative hurdle

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday completed the final legislative step necessary to give the electorate an opportunity to weigh in on how high-level judges are picked in the Volunteer State.

On a 78-14 vote, with no discussion offered by any of the members, the lower chamber passed Senate Joint Resolution 2. The measure easily garnered the necessary two-thirds or 66 “yes” votes necessary to send it to the voters in 2014.

The proposal passed the Senate 29-2 on Feb. 21. In accordance with Tennessee’s lengthy process for amending the state constitution, SJR2 already passed both chambers last legislative session.

Among those voting against the measure in the House this time around, nine were Republicans and five were Democrats.

The system outlined in SJR2, called the “Founding Fathers Plan Plus” by the primary sponsors, Germantown GOP Sen. Brian Kelsey and Bristol Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg, is similar to that of the federal government. The governor would nominate judges to serve on the Supreme Court and appellate courts and they would be confirmed or denied by the House and Senate.

Voters would be given a chance to weigh in on the judges’ job performance after an eight-year term on the bench, and then after each eight-year term subsequent. The names of judges would go before voters in “retention elections” much the same way it is done now: Judges would face no opposition on the ballot.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 has been presented as something of a compromise between the current system, know as the “Modified Missouri Plan,” and direct election of the state’s top judges, which many Republicans have argued the Tennessee Constitution requires.

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