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Press Releases

TN High Court Affirms Application of ‘Community Caretaking Doctrine’

Press release from the Tennessee Courts System; March 22,2013:

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed a ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which set aside the conviction of James David Moats for driving under the influence after a police officer discovered him parked in a grocery store parking lot.

After observing that the arresting officer admitted activating the blue lights on her patrol car without either cause to believe a crime had been committed or reasonable suspicion of any criminal activity, the Supreme Court concluded that the officer was not acting in a “community caretaking role” and, in consequence, practically all of the incriminating evidence should not have been admitted at the trial.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on December 7, 2008, an Etowah police officer on routine patrol observed Moats sitting in the driver’s seat of his pick-up truck, which was parked in a grocery store parking lot in an area of suspected drug activity. The officer continued on her route, but when she returned five minutes later to find the truck parked in the same position, she stopped her patrol car directly behind the truck, activated her blue lights, and called in the license plate number.

When the officer approached the driver’s side window, she saw an open beer can in a cup holder on the dash of the truck and keys in the ignition. After removing Moats from his truck and administering field sobriety tests, the officer took him into custody.

At trial, the officer candidly acknowledged that, although she had not seen Moats engage in any illegal activity, he was not “free to leave” once she activated the blue lights. The trial court determined that the officer was permitted to approach the parked truck and ask for the driver’s identification and proof of vehicle registration because she was acting under the community caretaking doctrine, which, under prior case law in this state, has been defined as a consensual police-citizen encounter that is unrelated to the investigation or detection of criminal activity.

The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed with the trial court, holding that the encounter was not voluntary and, therefore, the officer was acting in an impermissible investigative capacity rather than as a community caretaker.

The Supreme Court applied the community caretaking doctrine as defined in this state and affirmed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, holding that although the activation of an officer’s blue lights does not always mean there has been a “seizure” and thereby implicate constitutional protections, the totality of the circumstances indicated that the officer used her blue lights as a show of authority without reasonable suspicion or probable cause as traditionally defined by the United States Supreme Court.

Because the officer’s actions were not “totally divorced” from the investigation or the detection of criminal activity, the Court further ruled that the activation of her blue lights did not qualify as an exercise of the community caretaking role. The Court recognized that, while it is important for police officers to act in their community caretaking role of protecting and assisting the public, they must do so in a consensual manner without directing a show of authority, such as the activation of blue lights, at a particular person.

Justice Cornelia A. Clark and Justice William C. Koch, Jr. disagreed with the majority decision and would have reinstated the trial court’s judgment upholding the conviction. The dissenting justices would have adopted a community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant and probable cause requirements and upheld the seizure as valid under that exception.

Specifically, the dissenting justices would have held that the Etowah police officer acted reasonably in her community caretaking role by approaching Moats’ vehicle to check on his welfare after his vehicle remained parked for several minutes in a deserted commercial parking lot at 2:00 a.m. The dissenting justices emphasized that “the public has a strong interest in encouraging the police to act as community caretakers.” “Because searches or seizures premised on legitimate caretaking concerns are not unreasonable,” the dissenting justices explained, “validating them does not erode any of the constitutional protections or diminish any of the constitutional rights we all hold so dear.”

Visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov to read the State of Tennessee v. James David Moats opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, and the dissent of Justice Cornelia A. Clark and Justice William C. Koch, Jr.

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Press Releases

Chief Justice: Birch Blazed Trails

Press Release from the TN Supreme Court, August 26, 2011:

Statement from Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark regarding the passing of former Chief Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr.:

“We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of former Chief Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr. Our judicial family has lost a great leader, champion of justice, and dear friend. A true pioneer in many arenas, Justice Birch has left an indelible mark on the Tennessee judiciary and the entire legal system.

“As the only judge who ever served at every level of our legal system, Justice Birch had a keen understanding of the law, the judiciary and the people he served. That perspective served him well on the Supreme Court, especially in his role as chief justice. For his entire judicial career he continued to blaze trails to insure justice and access to the courts for all persons.

“I was very privileged to serve with Justice Birch on the Court during the last year of his tenure and to have my office around the corner from his. I often sought his advice and counsel. He never hesitated to stop what he was doing and answer my questions, and I benefitted greatly from his wisdom and patience. I was proud to call him my colleague and my friend.

“Justice Birch served the state of Tennessee with extraordinary dignity and integrity and we will miss him dearly.”

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Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Lawmaker Questions Appropriateness of Justices Lobbying Legislators

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said Monday he believes it would be improper for members of the Tennessee Supreme Court to lobby the Legislature against efforts to move the state toward the election of Supreme Court judges.

Nevertheless, Bell has a meeting scheduled with Chief Justice Cornelia Clark on the issue later this week.

Clark told a group of journalists last week that efforts in the legislature to pull back from the state’s retention election system are misguided, and she said she has been involved in discussions with lawmakers voicing her objection to the legislation.

Bell has three bills dealing with judicial elections. He wants to see the state revert to where it was before the Tennessee Plan, which currently seats judges, was implemented.

Bell winces when he brings up potential impropriety. But he said in an interview Monday that he felt the need to say what he believed.

“I think it at least borders on improper,” he said. “If they’re up here lobbying to protect the system, I think it’s improper for them to be doing so. This is a legislative matter, not a judicial matter. This is something I believe should be decided by the Legislature. We’re the ones that created it in 1971. If we choose to continue it, change it or do away with it, it should be up to us.

“Just as it would be improper for me to go and tell them how to rule on a specific case, I think it’s improper for them to be involved in this. That’s probably going to to get me some enemies, but that’s what I believe.”

Clark, speaking to a Tennessee Press Association meeting last week, said, “We, and I personally, have had a number of conversations with legislators, and we’ll continue to do that.

“We are engaging in a good dialogue, and there are some good-faith differences of opinion about what the right answer is.”

Bell has three bills, one of which he was still putting the finishing touches on Monday, regarding judicial elections. That last measure — the one he prefers — is one that would essentially wipe the slate clean of the Tennessee Plan and the let the debate begin anew. But he says his motivation is the clear and simple language in the state Constitution that calls for elections of judges.

In Tennessee, a special commission submits names to the governor, who makes the appointments to the bench. After a judge is on the bench, each judge is subject to what is known as a retention election, where citizens vote up or down on whether to retain the judge.

Bell, and many others, believe the retention election process is inconsistent with clear language in the Constitution.

“The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State,” the Tennessee Constitution reads.

Bell has another bill that, short of eliminating the retentions plan, calls for the nonpartisan election of Supreme Court judges from five districts across the state that would be drawn by the Legislature. It would also prohibit the candidate from knowing who contributed to a campaign and the amounts of the contributions.

A third bill sponsored by Bell would require that a judge receive 75 percent of the votes in a retention election, as opposed to the current majority requirement. Since the plan was put in place, only one Supreme Court judge, Penny White, has been removed in a retention election.

Bell, who says he is fundamentally a constitutionalist, is in his first year as a member of the Senate, after serving two terms in the House.

“I got interested in this issue when I was first elected to the House, when I found out what the Constitution actually says,” Bell said. “Article 6, Section 3 says judges shall be elected by qualified voters of the state. I think that wording is very simple and understood by anybody.”

He said if that phrase were put before the people of Tennessee, he believes 95 percent of them would interpret it to mean elections like the state has for other offices.

Bell calls the current system “kind of a charade.”

“It’s almost set up to where we’re intentionally keeping voters from knowing anything about the people running,” he said. “They may all be great people. They may deserve to be retained or re-elected, but under the process, we can’t know anything about them.”

The issue centers on concerns that electing judges at the appellate level can unduly politicize the judicial system. A fear exists that judge’s campaigns would begin to mirror typical political campaigns, where conventional political functions like television commercials could influence elections in ways that are not in the interest of justice.

Bell emphasizes that he is not arguing whether such campaigning would occur if open elections were held. He says the state is simply in no position to ignore what the Constitution clearly intends.

But even Bell concedes there could be political ramifications in part of the legislation he has introduced. His bill for establishing five distinct districts could be subject to gerrymandering, he acknowledged. And he said while one of his bills calls for the candidate being unable to know the origins or amounts of campaign contributions, the people should have access to that information. Bell said he has tried to go by models in the trial courts to craft his legislation.

As for requiring approval by 75 percent of voters in order to be retained on the bench, Bell said it should be higher than a simple majority.

“They need a higher standard, a higher bar to cross to be re-elected,” Bell said. “Many states that have similar plans require 66 percent of the vote. I figured I would start at 75.”

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Press Releases

Chief Justice Clark’s Remarks to the Tennessee Press Association

Speech by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark (“State of the Judiciary” – pdf) before the Tennessee Press Association, February 11, 2011 (Available at TNCourts.gov):

Welcome & Introductions Members of the Tennessee Press Association and special guests – it is an honor and privilege to speak with you today. I recognize that it is a rare occasion to find a judge, let alone a Supreme Court justice, in a room full of reporters. Given the nature of the courts, it can be difficult for a judge to engage in a dialogue with the press. However, I do welcome this opportunity to speak with you about the courts in Tennessee, the challenges we face as a judiciary, and how the judges and journalists can work together to further educate the public about the third and equal branch of government. I believe the state of the judiciary is strong; but its greatest weakness is the lack of understanding by the general public.

The Importance of public awareness about the judiciary Although the courts and the press can sometimes be at odds, our worlds are not too different. Both journalists and the judiciary face considerable changes as the world around us evolves at a rapid pace.

Printed papers and magazines are quickly giving way to online media. And, with the advent of social networking, news can be broken with a mere 140 characters. Deadlines are getting shorter, news is getting faster; and, like many other businesses, you are forced to do all of this with less and less.

Likewise, the courts face an expectation of immediacy and instant online access to everything from dockets to court opinions. And, just like you, our staff members have taken to tweeting the release of a new opinion or important announcement.

With all of these advances, comes its own set of challenges. The media is now chasing attention in a world where there are so many distractions and competing ways to get information. Yet, the need for factual reporting and clear analysis of important issues has never been greater.

And the courts are fighting to keep up in a world that is moving at a breakneck pace. Justice is many things, but oftentimes, it is not swift. Certainly, litigation sometimes takes too long, costs too much, and is too complicated. The public grows weary of this without fully understanding that the careful march of fair and equal justice takes time and deliberation.

The courts also face a crisis of an undereducated population that does not understand the rule of law and the constitutional obligation of the judicial branch to protect the rights guaranteed by our founding fathers. Sadly, the operation of our courts remains a mystery to those who have not passed through our doors as many Tennesseans today don’t have the benefit of a required civics education.

But, Tennesseans are not alone. In a recent survey by Findlaw.com, only 35 percent of Americans could name one U.S. Supreme Court justice and a mere ONE PERCENT of Americans could name all nine justices.

Meanwhile, I am quite certain a majority of Americans could name the judges of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

This sad reality plagues not only our justice system, but government in general. As a former educator, I firmly believe that education leads to a more informed and engaged society.

The media plays an integral role in informing and educating the public about how the system works, and when it doesn’t. A number of you spend considerable time in our courtrooms, and for that, we are grateful.

The courts rely on those of you in this room to convey the work we do as arbiters of justice. It is up to you to make the people in this state aware of the battles that take place in the hallowed halls of justice each and every day.

Admittedly, the law and our courts can be complicated and difficult to understand. And, the issues that we face are rarely black and white. The challenge in covering the courts is that there is not always a clear winner or loser. Despite all of this, emphasis must still be placed on getting it right. We place this important task in your hands and we are committed to working with you to help Tennesseans better understand the essential role the courts play in state government.

How the budget shortfall has impacted the courts One of our current challenges as a judiciary is an ever-shrinking budget. The judiciary, like the other branches of government, has had to make difficult decisions to help ease the state’s budget deficit while continuing to serve the public.

At the governor’s request, we have reduced our recurring budget by more than 21 percent in the past two years. Although our budget makes up less than half a percent of the state’s overall budget, these reductions have had a profound impact on how we operate the court system.

As part of these reductions, we have eliminated almost 40 positions across the state – including appellate court clerks and attorneys, court reporters and staff from the Administrative Office of the Courts. We have also closed the three public law libraries housed in the state’s three Supreme Court buildings, reduced our office space and restructured our court reporting and senior judge programs.

Despite these budget cuts, I am proud to say that the members of the judiciary have done an excellent job of pulling together to ensure that Tennesseans continue to receive superior service in our courtrooms across the state.

While it is regrettable to make budget cuts, we are committed to sharing the responsibility for trimming the state’s budget. We have learned to do more with less, and we are committed to maintaining the same level of service regardless of the additional budget reductions we may have to make for the next fiscal year.

Improving Access to Justice in our state The nation’s economic crisis has also furthered the need for access to justice. Now, more than ever, low-income Tennesseans are unable to obtain the necessary legal assistance when encountering civil matters.

In today’s troubled economic climate, the need for civil legal services among Tennessee’s indigent and working poor families can only be expected to increase as they face legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures. The issues confronting low- income people require new solutions and an increased need for existing services.

It is a common misconception that low-income citizens are entitled to legal assistance for civil matters, in addition to criminal issues. Sadly, this is not the case. Only one in five income-eligible people will receive the legal help they need.

We have 75 very dedicated legal aid attorneys in Tennessee, but they simply are not able to assist all of the many low-income Tennesseans who encounter legal problems on a daily basis. While legal aid groups, law schools, bar associations and law firms that have worked diligently to address this issue, there is still much work that must be done to tackle the unmet legal needs of Tennesseans. We must ensure that all people – rich or poor, young or old – have proper access to our court system.

As a result of this legal needs crisis, the Supreme Court has declared Access to Justice our number one strategic priority. Since announcing this initiative in December 2008, we have held public meetings across the state to better understand how the judiciary can better meet the legal needs of low-income citizens.

We also created the Access to Justice Commission, a group of 10 attorneys, business and community leaders, who are serving as our partners in this important endeavor. Under our direction, the Access to Justice Commission developed a strategic plan last year to guide our efforts in the coming years.

We have made a number of rule changes that will encourage more lawyers to provide free or reduced-cost legal advice to those who need it most.

Just a few weeks ago, the Court hosted a statewide pro bono summit with more than 100 of the state’s top attorneys and community leaders to discuss ways to improve pro bono efforts across the state. During the event, participants explored a number of issues, such as encouraging increased corporate pro bono program participation, providing legal services to rural areas, expanding assistance to those with language and intellectual disabilities, and collaborating with libraries, faith-based organizations and other community groups to provide needed services.

At the summit, we also announced how we are using new technologies to provide greater access to our courts. In the coming months, we will unveil our Justice for All website, which will provide information about pro bono resources across the state for both pro se litigants and attorneys and community members who are willing to help.

We also announced the development of an attorney email bank that will allow Tennesseans to receive free legal advice from volunteer attorneys. The site will allow users to submit legal questions that can then be answered by volunteer attorneys from across the state. This site, which is being developed by the Tennessee Bar Association and Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will be launched this spring.

We are working on our own new, enhanced website that will serve as an important source of information for the public and the media. And we are planning to equip our 3 Supreme Court buildings with technology necessary to allow live video streaming of appellate court arguments.

Although we have made great strides toward our goal of achieving greater access to justice, there is still much work to be done to address the legal needs of low-income citizens.

The importance of fair and impartial courts The most basic obligation of state courts is to resolve the

disputes brought before them. For the good of our citizens and our state, it is of utmost importance that our courts remain fair and impartial. The decisions that are made in our courts can have a considerable impact on the livelihood and wellbeing of individuals, families and businesses. We do not take this responsibility lightly.

As judges, we are bound to follow the constitution and laws of our state and country. We do not have the authority to make decisions as we please. Justice is not the guarantee of a particular outcome in a particular case; it is the assurance that each dispute is resolved based on its facts and within the confines of the law. In this respect we are a lot like referees and umpires.

Does anyone know what Phil Luckett and Jim Joyce have in common?

You might remember Phil Luckett from the Music City Miracle game that landed the Titans in the Super Bowl. Mr. Luckett was the referee who reviewed the instant replay of the infamous kickoff return that resulted in a touchdown for the Titans. After reviewing the play, Mr. Luckett concluded that there was not enough evidence to overturn the ruling on the field that Frank Wycheck made a legal, lateral pass to Kevin Dyson.

Those of us who are Titans fans were thrilled with the outcome and believe Mr. Luckett made the right call. However, I’m quite certain that there are Buffalo Bills fans who, to this day, think otherwise.

Jim Joyce was the umpire for the Tigers and Indians game last year where Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga had almost thrown perfect game. With two outs in the 9th Inning, Gallaraga was one batter away from a perfect game. However, the next batter hit an easy grounder to first base and it appeared that the batter should have been out. But, Mr. Joyce called the batter safe. Although most of us watching the game would agree that Gallaraga threw a perfect game that night, the record books do not reflect that.

Each of these referees had to make some very difficult decisions in each situation. And I’m confident that the referees and umpires had done their best to make the right call on the field, even if we don’t always agree with them.

Now, let’s consider for a moment if we were able to donate money to elect referees for sporting events. Let’s say the Titans ownership paid the largest sum of money and got their guys on the field. Although Titans fans would be thrilled with that, I’m quite certain that the Colts would have a tough time thinking those particular referees could be unbiased when we played each other.

Judges are a lot like referees. We review decisions made “on the field” and have to make tough calls based on how a particular play follows the rules of the game. Our decisions aren’t always popular and there are bound to be people who disagree, no matter what the outcome. But, we stay true to our commitment to uphold the law.

The people of Tennessee deserve to have their cases heard based without fear of prejudice, politics or pressure from powerful interest groups influencing the outcome. Justice is not served when court decisions are used to advance an agenda or reward a contributor.

Consider what happened in the Caperton v. Massey case that came out of West Virginia, a state that holds partisan elections for its appellate courts. In this case, a $50 million jury verdict was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. A justice on the bench did not recuse himself from the case, despite receiving $3 Million in campaign funds from the CEO of the lead defendant.

The same justice then cast the deciding vote in favor of his campaign donor’s company, overturning the trial court verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court has since overturned this ruling. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and stated:

“We conclude that there is a serious risk of actual bias – based on objective and reasonable perceptions – when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge’s election campaign when the case was pending or imminent.”

The majority of Americans agree with Justice Kennedy. According to a poll by USA Today, More than 90% believe judges should not hear cases involving individuals or groups that contributed to their campaign.

Partisan elections of appellate courts put judges in a precarious position. Despite the best of intentions, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent powerful influence from seeping into the courtroom.

Only nine states in the country hold partisan elections for their Supreme Courts. Tennessee is one of 24 states that use a merit selection and retention election system for choosing its Supreme Court justices.

This merit-based system method offers the best of both worlds – the selection of a judge based upon an individual’s qualifications and voter participation following a performance evaluation of each judge.

Should we abandon this system, Tennessee runs the risk of turning into states like Alabama and Illinois where recent campaigns for a single seat on the Supreme Court have topped $8 million dollars. In these states, just like West Virginia, justice is served to the highest bidder.

As retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once stated, “The founders realized there has to be someplace where being right is more important than being popular or powerful, and where fairness trumps strength. And in our country, that place is supposed to be the courtroom.”

Closing and Thanks In closing, I would like to share a quote by the great Walter

Lippman, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist in the mid-1900s – “He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”

I think this statement bears great relevance for both journalists and judges. Our tasks are not always easy and the things we write are not always popular. However, we must stand firm in our commitment to do what’s right and honorable for the people of our great state.

I commend you for the work you do every day to inform and educate the public. We are blessed to live in a nation with a free and independent press. I do not take this privilege lightly, and I’m certain that neither do you.

Even though the courts and the press may not always agree, we both share in the desire to inform and educate the public. I look forward to working with you to further our goals of educating Tennesseans about the importance of courts and government in our state.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today.

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Business and Economy Education Environment and Natural Resources Featured Health Care Liberty and Justice Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Chief Justice No Fan of Electing Judges

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia Clark on Friday criticized efforts to have members of the court chosen through popular elections, but she acknowledged that she has participated in the political process by making political campaign contributions.

Clark addressed a luncheon meeting of the Tennessee Press Association in downtown Nashville and expressed concerns about legislative efforts to elect judges.

“We are worried about these issues,” Clark said. “Partisan election of judges puts them in a very precarious position, even if we don’t want it to.

“There’s not enough money you could pay me, or pay on my behalf, to have me change my mind about an opinion in a case. But I can understand why, if somebody who had given enough money to my campaign, you might worry about that. You might question my sincerity.”

The issue of elections of appellate judges has become a contentious issue, with a push in the Tennessee General Assembly to move the state away from the merit selection process currently in place.

The debate is between those who see an inherent danger in politicizing judicial seats and those who believe in a constitutional requirement of allowing elections.

According to the Tennessee Constitution, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State.”

The state currently operates under what is known as the Tennessee Plan, which allows the governor to appoint judges from a select list of candidates from a nominating commission. The public can then keep or remove judges through retention elections, which rely on a yes/no vote. The system has been found to pass constitutional muster.

The argument for the current system is that it insulates the judiciary from partisan politics. The argument against it is that the current system is elitist and ignores the right of the people to choose who sits on the bench.

Along the way, issues have risen as to whether judges themselves should be contributing to political campaigns. Speaking to TNReport after her speech Friday, Chief Justice Clark said she could not recall contributing to anyone in the last year, but she said she has contributed to a number of legislative candidates in the past.

She listed Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, as those she has contributed to, as well as U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a former state senator, and former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.

“I have contributed to political campaigns because our current ethics rules allow that,” Clark said. “Those rules have been changed off and on over the years, and I understand some concern has risen about that recently.

“So in the coming year as we are going to consider complete revisions to our rules of ethics, that’s going to be one of the topics we talk about significantly. Judges should not give up their rights. But if there is any concern that our giving to a campaign may suggest a certain outcome in a case then we need to look at that very closely.”

Clark said there has been dialogue between the court and legislature about the election of judges.

“We, and I personally, have had a number of conversations with legislators, and we’ll continue to do that,” Clark said. “We are engaging in a good dialogue, and there are some good-faith differences of opinion about what the right answer is.

“We also understand there are a number of business leaders and others who want to participate in that dialogue and to sort of give their perspective, so we expect that dialogue to continue.”

Clark said she had met just this week with 10 to 12 legislators on the issue and expects those discussions to continue.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, has sponsored a bill requiring that Supreme Court justices be elected. His bill would have one Supreme Court justice elected from each of five districts in the state, to be drawn by the General Assembly. It would prohibit judicial candidates from personally seeking or accepting campaign contributions and would prohibit the campaign treasurer from divulging to the candidate the names of donors or the individual amounts of their donations.

Clark used a sports analogy to make her point about politicizing judicial seats. First, she asked the audience if they could identify the names Phil Luckett or Jim Joyce. She explained that Luckett was the instant replay official on the famed Music City Miracle in 1999 when the Tennessee Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills on a last-play lateral pass. She informed the group that Joyce was the baseball umpire who made the call that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians last season. Joyce later admitted he blew the call.

“Here’s what I want you to remember,” Clark said told her audience. “What would it be like if we elected the officials in our sporting events?

“What if the Titans could run a slate of referees and the Colts could run a slate of referees?”

Then, she said, somebody got to vote, and the outcome was determined by whoever put up the most money and ran the most “great-looking, Super Bowl-like commercials” to elect the referees.

“Let’s say the Titans won,” Clark said. “Their referees would show up on the field. Titans fans might be happy, but I’m not sure the Colts fans would be very happy. I’m sure the referees could say, ‘I take my oath. I’m hired just to administer the rules, and it doesn’t matter if this team spent $5 million or that team spent $4 million. I’m going to call it the right way.’

“I’m not sure the perception would be great.”

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Press Releases

TN Supreme Court Names Clark Chief Justice

Press Release from Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, Aug. 9, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Justice Cornelia A. Clark will become the second woman in the state’s history to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court when she is sworn into office at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1 at the historic courthouse in Franklin, Tenn.

“I am honored and humbled to be chosen by my colleagues on the Court to serve as chief justice,” Clark said. “I consider it a privilege to serve on the Supreme Court with such talented members who are dedicated to the law and public service. I look forward to working with the Court as we continue our efforts to improve access to justice and strengthen the public’s confidence in the judiciary.”

Chief Justice Janice Holder will administer the oath of office to Clark, who was elected by the Court to serve a two-year term as chief justice. The ceremony will also feature remarks by the other members of the Supreme Court, representatives from the intermediate appellate courts, and judges and clerks from all levels of the judicial branch.

Clark was appointed to the Supreme Court in September 2005 and was elected a full eight-year term in August 2006. Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, Clark was appointed director of the Administrative Office of the Courts in May 1999. She held this position until she was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Clark was appointed circuit court judge of the 21st Judicial District in October 1989 after practicing law for 10 years at Farris, Warfield & Kanaday, now Stites & Harbison. She was elected to a full eight-year term in 1990, and was re-elected in 1998.

The incoming chief justice earned her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1971 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Harvard University in 1972. Before attending law school, Clark taught high school history and government for four years. In 1979, Clark received her juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University School of Law, where she served as a member of the editorial board for Vanderbilt Law Review.

On June 24, Clark was announced as one of seven Nashville women who will be inducted into the YWCA’s Academy for Women of Achievement. Earlier this year, she was named Appellate Judge of the Year by the Southeastern Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates. In 2005, Clark received the Williamson County Bar Association’s inaugural Liberty Bell Award for promoting a better understanding for the rule of law and encouraging civic resopnsibility.

Clark is a former board member of the Marion Griffith Chapter of Lawyers’ Association for Women, the Nashville Bar Association and Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. She is a past president of the YWCA of Nashville and founding member of the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women. Clark currently serves on the board of directors of the United Methodist Publishing House.

Clark is a native of Franklin, where her family has lived for eight generations. An active member of the community, Clark served as Franklin City Attorney and as a board member of the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce. Clark is a life-long member of First United Methodist Church in Franklin, where she has previously served on the Board of Trustees and as chair of the Administrative Board and the Site Selection and Building Committee.