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Ramsey Praises TN Bar Association for Rejecting Proposed ‘Anti-Faith’ Rule

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; May 14, 2013:

Tennessee Bar Association defeats anti-faith rule

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today praised the Tennessee Bar Association for fighting against a proposed rule that could have been used to force lawyers of faith to violate key tenants of their religion.

“Freedom of religion is one of the bedrocks upon which this country is founded. No American should be limited in his chosen profession because he or she holds certain values,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Rules already in place prevent lawyers from engaging in discrimination. The proposed rule was merely an attempt to write political correctness into professional codes of conduct. I congratulate the Bar Association for fighting against this unnecessary rule.”

The proposed rule, written by the Board of Professional Responsibility, would have forbade lawyers from “engag[ing] in conduct, in a professional capacity, manifesting bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.”

By holding attorneys to this standard “in their professional capacity” rather than when representing clients, the new rules would have potentially prevented lawyers from a myriad of activities from declining to take a client on moral grounds to taking a public position on an issue like gay marriage while serving in a legislative body.

A lawyer found guilty of misconduct under the rule would have opened himself up to possible censure, fines or even suspension. In striking down the rule, the state Supreme Court preserved current rules that prevent discrimination in the course of representing a client.

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Hooker: Judicial Retention Election Statute is Unconstitutional

Op-ed from John Jay Hooker, Advocate for Election & Campaign Finance Reform; September 14, 2012: 

Supreme Court Judges, the Big Lie, and the Cover-up

In 1973 in the case of Higgins v. (Governor) Dunn, the Supreme Court of Tennessee unlawfully held that the Retention Election statute is constitutional. The constitutionality of the Act was not properly before the court due to the fact that Governor Dunn had made no appointment under the Act, nor was there any election conducted under the Act. Under the facts of the case, the Act was not “APPLICABLE”. Therefore, the Court had no power, in legal terms, no jurisdiction, to rule on the constitutional issue. As a result of that unlawful decision, the “BIG LIE” was born and lives today.

However, the “BIG LIE”, that the Retention Election statute is constitutional, is perpetuated by the decision in the case of Hooker v. Thompson in 1996. In that case the court again held the Retention Election statute constitutional, relying upon the ruling in the Higgins v. Dunn case. The Court so held, notwithstanding the fact the Court had held that that there could be no election under the Act. Therefore the constitutional issue was not properly before the Court.

Unbelievably, the Tennessee Bar Association and many of the biggest law firms in Tennessee and lobbying organizations such as Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts, because these organizations want judges to be appointed by the Governor, notwithstanding the fact that the constitution requires that all judges be elected by the qualified voters, all claim that the Retention Election Statute is constitutional. Those claims are based on the Court’s rulings in the two aforesaid decisions. Notwithstanding the fact that these lawyers know, if they have read the Constitution, that the claim that the Act is constitutional is a “BIG LIE”.

In furtherance of the “BIG LIE”, Governor Haslam appointed as Special Judges former Chief Justice Barker and former Supreme Court Justice Brown, who Governor Haslam knew or should have known were both on the Board of Directors of the lobbying organization Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts. Those Special Judges were obviously not “IMPARTIAL” and should not have been appointed by Governor Haslam to sit on the Special Supreme Court, nor should those Judges have accepted the public trust that goes with being a Special Supreme Court Justice and consequently when those Judges accepted that appointment, they dishonored the Constitution and violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and they know they did. For that reason, upon the motion of this lawyer, they have disqualified themselves in this case.

Astonishingly, on September 8th, Governor Haslam stated that the disqualification of these Judges was unnecessary, notwithstanding the fact that these Judges admitted that their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned”. Furthermore, these Judges in this case cannot preside without the consent of all the parties, which consent was never given. Apparently, that claim by Governor Haslam is simply a part of the “COVER UP” that the Governor and other high governmental officials in all three branches of government, with the cooperation of the office of the Attorney General, are orchestrating on behalf of the special interest groups who want the Supreme Court and other appellate judges of this state to be appointed by the Governor as opposed to being chosen in an election by the qualified voters as the Constitution, in plain language, requires.

The Governor of Tennessee is not a lawyer, but the Constitution was written and ratified by mostly non-lawyers. If the Governor would read the Constitution and the aforementioned Higgins and Hooker cases, and if for that matter each reader of this article will do likewise, the Governor and you will understand that those decisions that gave birth to the “BIG LIE” that rule that the retention election statute is constitutional were unlawfully decided and consequently must be overruled in this case if we are to reestablish the rule of law in Tennessee.

To claim that he believes otherwise is further proof that the Governor of Tennessee is involved in covering up the “BIG LIE” in an effort to keep the Retention Election Statute on the books so that he, as Governor, shall have the sole power to appoint appellate judges. This deprives the citizens of this state their constitutional right to choose their judges in the same right that they have to choose all public officials.

If you want to exercise your God-given, constitutional right to refute the “BIG LIE” and stop the “COVER UP” contact this lawyer who, as a public citizen, is determined under my oath to support the Constitution and represent those in this matter those who are otherwise voiceless.

 

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Press Releases

TN Bar Association Proposes New Judicial Conduct Rules

Press Release from the Tennessee Bar Association, Feb. 24, 2011:

New disqualification and recusal standards, procedure urged

NASHVILLE, Feb. 25, 2011 — New stricter standards and procedures for determining disqualification and recusal of judges, changes in restrictions on campaign activities by judges, and a new prohibition on judges presiding over cases in which they participate in judicial settlement conferences are among the changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct being recommended in a petition filed with the Tennessee Supreme Court today by the Tennessee Bar Association.

The proposed rule changes come as a result of an 18-month long study of the Code of Judicial Conduct undertaken by a task force of judges and lawyers. In its petition, the TBA says one of the reasons for the new recusal and disqualification standards and procedures is the “explosion of contested, big money campaigns for judicial office.” The petition cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which found that huge contributions in a West Virginia Supreme Court case had raised questions regarding whether the participation of a judge violated the due process clause. Commenting on the proposed changes, TBA President Sam Elliott said:

“A key role of the Tennessee Bar Association is to continually consider and propose updates and improvements to the various rules that govern the practice of law in the state. The changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct proposed by the task force are the result of the outstanding work of lawyers and judges at the highest level of our profession, and will prove to be a clear guideline to our judges as they fulfill their essential function in our society. The TBA is grateful to those lawyers and judges on the task force who so generously gave their time and talents to this effort.”

The task force was chaired by prominent Chattanooga lawyer Max Bahner with Knoxville lawyer Sarah Sheppeard serving as the Reporter. The group is made up of 13 members with a majority of the panel being judges. The group used the 2007 American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct as a guide, which Task Force chair Bahner called the “most influential guide for such rules, subject to a states’ distinctive practices.” Twenty-two states have approved revisions as a result of the changes and twenty more have established committees or have published proposed revisions.

The 80- page proposal includes provisions that:

1. Provide greater guidance on judicial disqualification and recusal. Included are factors such as the levels of campaign support for the judge or the judge’s opponent, the timing of the support and independent expenditures.

2. Require compliance with new procedures for motions to determine incompetence, disqualification and recusal.

3. Consistent with recent constitutional decisions, significantly lessen the restrictions on campaign activities while making it clear that campaign committees and judges must fully comply with campaign finance disclosure statutes, and that such activities may lead to disqualification.

4. Include within the provisions related to judges’ families a person with whom another person maintains a household and an intimate relationship other than a person to whom he or she is legally married.

5. Clarify application of certain code provisions to senior judges, part-time judges, continuing part-time judges and temporary judges.

6. Clarify when judges may provide a reference or recommendation.

7. Clarify a judge’s responsibility to report violations of lawyer or judicial ethics.

8. Permit judges, spouses and guests to attend events associated with educational, civic, religious, fraternal and charitable organizations.

9. Limit participation in activities of organizations, which engage in political advocacy in limited subject areas or consistently for one side in lawsuits.

10. Emphasize that judges must perform their duties promptly, as well as competently, diligently and cooperatively.

If the court follows its usual practice in considering such recommendations, the proposal will be published for a period of time for public comment, followed by closer examination of any issues on which there is substantial disagreement.

ABOUT THE TENNESSEE BAR ASSOCIATION

The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The Young Lawyers Division is comprised of association members age 36 and younger or within the first five years of practice regardless of age. The division is dedicated to helping new lawyers succeed in the profession through mentoring programs, continuing legal education and peer networking, as well as find fulfillment in the practice of law through pro bono legal work and public service projects.