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Hooker Wants to Address Judicial Evaluation Committee

Letter from John Jay Hooker to the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission; December 3, 2013:

David Haines, Esq.
General Counsel Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission
E-mail: DHaines@tncourts.gov,
David.haines@tncourts,com

Dear Mr Haines:

I am writing to request that you advise all the members of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission that as a litigant in the case of, In Re: John Jay Hooker, before the Supreme Court, I would like to have an opportunity to personally appear before the Commission on Friday December 6th or anytime thereafter before the Commission makes its final evaluation at a time convenient to the Commission here or at any other location, regarding whether or not the Supreme Court Judges should be Retention-Elected. Respectfully, I believe that I and other citizens who have grievances towards various judges, for various reasons, have a constitutional right to be heard under Article I §1, Article I §23, Article XI §16, (see addendum,) to reform the Government

In my opinion the members of the Supreme Court should not be Retention-Elected as a consequence of the decision in the aforesaid case. Based on my personal knowledge under my attorney’s oath I want to inform the commission that the five members of the Supreme Court, in my case, in accordance with the Commission’s evaluation criteria, set out in Supreme Court Rule 27 §3.01 showed a lack of integrity, were guilty of impropriety, personal bias, and did not decide the case based on the law and the facts. They were not impartial and they did not comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct, regarding a Judge’s duty to recuse if an objective person would question the impartiality of the Judge, Supreme Court Rule 10-Rule 2.11(a), Disqualification.

The objection that I have regarding all five members of the Supreme Court, who declined to “disqualify” themselves in the, In Re: Hooker, case is based on the fact that the members of the Court had an “interest” in the subject matter of a Motion in that case. Nonetheless, the members of the Court declined to “disqualify” themselves under Article VI §11 and therefore acted without jurisdiction. While they denied my Motion to disqualify for their own benefit, in In Re: Hooker, claiming that a litigant cannot challenge the manner by which Judges are elected, however the Court reversed itself on that issue in the case of John Jay Hooker vs. Governor Haslam pending before the Special Supreme Court.

Under our Constitution, every litigant is entitled to “Due Process of Law” and this litigant was deprived of “Due Process of Law,” because the Members of the Court were manifestly “prejudiced” against this lawyer because of my long efforts in the Courts, before the Legislature and in public forums, sometimes, reported in various newspapers, to get the Retention-Election Statute declared “unconstitutional.”

I sought relief in the public interest on behalf of the qualified voters of the State or district, because the Retention-Election Statute provides for the “appointment” of Judges by the Governor when the Constitution specifically provides that “Judges shall be elected by the qualified voters.”

May I suggest that the file in the, In Re: Hooker case should be procured by the Commission. The file will reveal the totality of my claims. My claim includes the fact that the Court put down an order prohibiting me from filing any further papers in that case, which order is still effective as of this day and therefore I request the Commission to ask the Clerk of the Appellate Court, Mr. Michael Catalano to have the file made available to the Commission. The order depriving this litigant of the right to file papers in that case was and is blatantly unconstitutional. Furthermore, that Order was put down for the benefit of the Members of the Court, and for the purpose of harming this lawyer. Consequently, that Order deprived this litigant of my constitutional right to access to an open court, (see attached letter from the Clerk).

That action violated the Official Misconduct statute, for which technically the Judges were subject to criminal liability. Simply put the members of the Supreme Court, who decided my case, were guilty of an abuse of power for their own benefit, in an effort to deprive this lawyer of my Constitutional right to request said Judges to disqualify themselves. The fact is these Judges declined to do so because they were prejudiced against me for my efforts to remove them office. Furthermore, these self serving Judges declined to do so in order to keep this lawyer from challenging the constitutionality of the Act under which they were appointed.

However, subsequently the members of the Court in the case of John Jay Hooker vs. Governor Haslam, did recuse themselves on the basis that the had an interest in the subject matter of the case, which interest was the same interest, the Judges had when they declined to disqualify themselves in the disciplinary case. The result was, they suspended this lawyer’s law license in, In Re: Hooker, when under the decision in the Hooker vs. Haslam case, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to do so. That conduct proves said Judges should not be Retention elected, and should be put in situation where they have to answer in public, in a contested election.

The reason I ask the Commission to procure the file, In Re: Hooker, is that I have received the attached letter this week, from the Clerk, which reflects that the members of the Court have again violated my constitutional rights to file a motion in that case, in an effort for this lawyer to bring the file to this Commission. Judges have no right to prohibit any litigant to file papers in an effort to support the Constitution.

Thank you sir, in advance, for requesting the Commission to give me an opportunity to be heard in accordance with the constitutional rights of those who desire to seek redress of grievances under Article I §23. I would like do so on Friday December 6th if possible, or in the alternative thereafter at the convenience of the Commission at any location of the Commission’s choice.

So that I can comply with the form usually employed by the evaluation process, please send me a copy of the survey form that others who have responded to inquiries by the Commission have received. Incidentally, notwithstanding the fact that I had the aforesaid case before the Supreme Court, I did not receive any inquiry from the commission to which I could have responded setting out my complaint.

Permit me to say with great sincerity, under my attorney’s oath that I have a firm belief that the all the members of the regular Supreme Court are “not fit” to be retention elected because they abused their power for their own benefit and to harm a lawyer that they are prejudiced against for challenging their jurisdiction and the manner by which they were appointed and subsequently retention-elected.

Thanks for your assistance:

John Jay Hooker

cc: Distributed to the Press and to the Regular Members of the Supreme Court

Addendum

ARTICLE I.
Declaration of Rights

Section 1. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.

Section 23. That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address of remonstrance.

ARTICLE VI

Section 11. No judge of the Supreme or Inferior Courts shall preside on the trial of any cause in the event of which he may be interested, or where either of the parties shall be connected with him by affinity of consanguinity, within such degrees as may be prescribed by law, or in which he may have been of counsel, or in which he may have presided in any Inferior Court, except by consent of all the parties. In case all or any of the judges of the Supreme Court shall thus be disqualified from presiding on the trial of any cause or causes, the court or the judges thereof, shall certify the same to the governor of the state, and he shall forthwith specially commission the requisite number of men, of law knowledge, for the trial and determination thereof. The Legislature may by general laws make provision that special judges may be appointed, to hold any courts the judge of which shall be unable or fail to attend or sit; or to hear any cause in which the judge may be incompetent.

ARTICLE XI

Section 16. The declaration of rights hereto prefixed is declared to be a part of the Constitution of the state, and shall never be violated on any pretense whatever. And to guard against transgression of the high powers we have delegated, we declare that everything in the bill of rights contained, is excepted
out of the general powers of the government, and shall forever remain inviolate.

TN Supreme Court Rules

Rule 27 Section 3. Evaluation Criteria

3.01. Appellate judges shall be evaluated based on the following specific criteria:

(A) Integrity. In addition to other appropriate performance measures, the Commission shall consider:

(1) avoidance of impropriety and appearance of impropriety;

(2) freedom from personal bias;

(3) ability to decide issues based on the law and the facts without regard to the identity of the parties or counsel, or the popularity of the decision and without concern for or fear of criticism;

(4) impartiality of actions; and

(5) compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct contained in Tenn. S. Ct. R. 10.

Supreme Court Rule 10-Rule 2.11(a) Disqualification A Judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the Judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned…

Categories
Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

3 Of Haslam’s Special Supreme Court Judges Step Down

More than half the members of Gov. Bill Haslam’s hand-picked special Supreme Court have recused themselves from hearing a case to determine the constitutionality of how Tennessee selects appellate and high-court judges.

Special Supreme Court Judges William Muecke Barker, George H. Brown and Robert L. Echols announced Friday they had disqualified themselves from the case because of a perceived conflict of interest. The three have ties to a group that lobbies against judicial elections, which is the issue at the heart of the case.

“Although the undersigned Special Judges have not formed an opinion about the constitutionality of the contested language of the Tennessee constitution governing the election of appellate judges, they find that it is of utmost importance to protect the integrity of this court and to avoid allegations challenging the independence, partiality or fairness in its decision making process, and opinions,” reads the Special Supreme Court order.

The three judges have ties to the group Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts, an organization that has lobbied against moves to elect appellate judges.

Former gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker argues that judges should be popularly elected by voters, like lawmakers and lower-level judges are. He is suing Haslam and other state government officials for appointing a judge to the Criminal Court of Appeals.

“Why on earth they monkeyed around all this time is beyond me,” said Hooker.

“The problem here is that the fix was in. Hell would freeze over before those three judges would hold the retention election statute unconstitutional,” he continued.

Judges are now assigned to the bench through the Tennessee Plan, a method which requires high-ranking judges be appointed by the governor, then elected by the people to renew their eight-year terms through uncontested “yes-no” retention elections.

Many believe the Tennessee Constitution requires that judges at all levels be elected, even though the Legislature and the Supreme Court have chosen not to follow that interpretation.

The Constitution declares, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State.” It also states, “The judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.”

The recusals leave Special Justice Andrée S. Blumstein and Special Justice W. Morris Kizer to man the court.

Through a spokesman, Haslam’s office issued the following statement:

The governor appointed five attorneys with strong reputations and qualifications. He is disappointed that three of the appointees felt it necessary to recuse themselves based on a perceived conflict of interest, but he understands their decision and appreciates their initial willingness to serve. Their actions are out of an abundance of caution and only substantiate their good faith and character because it is probably unnecessary. No appeal has been filed with the Supreme Court.

Judicial selection in Tennessee has been discussed and analyzed for decades. Having a personal position does not disqualify a judge from serving or applying the law. Judges do that every day.

Categories
Education NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Casada’s Judicial Elections Bill Shelved

Despite opposition from the governor and both speakers, and a delay in committee, Rep. Glen Casada says he still plans to move forward with a bill requiring the election of judges.

But it’s now on hold for a while.

The bill, HB173, was postponed Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It is scheduled to be brought up again at the final committee meeting of the year.

The issue of judicial selection has elicited diverse opinions from lawmakers, as well as several proposed solutions.

House Majority Leader Rep. Gerald McCormick has said he believes the Constitution plainly calls for judicial elections, but favors the proposal brought by Gov. Bill Haslam, Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, which would amend the Constitution to enshrine the current system.

“In the end we’ll vote and whoever has the most votes wins,” he told TNReport Tuesday. “And certainly if I’m on the losing end of that, I’ll take it in stride and keep moving along. It won’t be the end of the Republic. But I think there’s a better way to do it and I don’t think it’s the way [Casada] does it. We’ll see who has the most votes.”

On Tuesday, Haslam urged the committee not to advance the bill.

Casada, R-Franklin, had expressed confidence before the hearing about the bill’s chances. He told TNReport Tuesday, after the committee meeting, he’s not backing off and that the delay affords him the chance to address what he sees as the only credible argument against the bill.

“The only argument on this bill that has any legs – and they’re very small legs – is that it will be costly to elect five Supreme Court judges across the state,” he said. “Rep. [Rick] Womick has come up with an amendment that divides the state into five districts and you run district-wide. That would really cut down the cost. Actually it’s kind of ingenious on his part. It’s got my attention. But gosh, I couldn’t run it just seeing it for the first time.”

He went on, speaking of his decision not to oppose the delay. “I ran a risk by doing what I did. But, with that said, I thought the risk was worthwhile because the only argument that I think is credible, I may have an answer to.”

Categories
Business and Economy Featured Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Ramsey Concedes Judges Bill Is Dead For This Year

While he insisted earlier this legislative session it was important that the state’s practice of selecting judges be made constitutional, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue this year.

“We got started late on that this year, no doubt about it,” he told TNReport. “It will have to pass next year.”

Several proposals to rejigger how judges are chosen have stalled, including one to eliminate the constitutional requirement that judges be elected.

Another proposal would have voters decide whether the state Legislature should figure out a way to hand-pick judges.

The state’s current process for picking judges, dubbed the Tennessee Plan, calls for nominees to be put forward by a selection committee, with the governor making the final appointments to the Tennessee Supreme Court and the appeals court. Judges serve eight-year terms, then face elections to retain their posts.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris predicted earlier this session that there may not be enough time to seriously consider Ramsey’s proposal, which would have started the process of amending the state constitution in line with the Tennessee Plan. The bill is in committee.

“It’s underway, but if we’re trying to get to adjournment next weekend, there’s just not enough time,” the Collierville Republican said. “We’ve got all next year as well.”

Putting constitutional amendments on the ballot is an arduous process. It requires approval from two general assemblies back-to-back, then a public vote.

Ramsey’s bill is not the only constitutional amendment tied up in the final days of the session.

Sen. Mae Beavers wants to ask voters if they’d rather elect the attorney general. The Supreme Court now makes that appointment.

She’s postponed action on the bill twice in the last week, saying she wanted to make sure she has all the votes needed to advance the proposal to the floor. It’s scheduled for another hearing Tuesday.

“I haven’t polled members. That’s one reason why I rolled it to make sure I have the votes there,” she said.