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Press Releases

Senate OK’s Proposal to Allow Online Posting of Public Notices

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 14, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The State Senate approved legislation today requiring newspapers that print public notices to post them on the Internet. Senate Bill 461, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), is supported by the Tennessee Press Association.

Action on the bill was taken during “Sunshine Week,” an annual time to highlight the importance of maintaining open government nationwide. Yager said the legislation recognizes the growing use of the Internet as a source of information, while preserving the integrity of using an independent agency for public notice by newspapers of general circulation.

Current law requires public notices be given on a variety of matters of importance to the public, including government meetings, bid announcements, notice of parental termination, foreclosure notices, public sale of private property, back tax notices, estate notices and zoning changes, to name a few. Local governments, looking for ways to reduce expenditures have suggested they can save money by posting notices on their websites rather than posting them in a local newspaper.

“My experience in local government gives me a greater appreciation of the importance of this issue,” said Yager, who served as Roane County Executive for 24 years before being elected to the State Senate. “Using an independent agency, the local newspaper, builds integrity in the process. To give even the appearance of manipulating mandatory public notices, tarnishes the reputation of government because it undermines the concept of independence and transparency.”

In addition, the legislation calls for the newspapers to post public notices on a central statewide website. Every newspaper that publishes public notices must post on their website homepage a link to the public notice section and another link to the Tennessee Press Association’s statewide repository website.

“This bill combines the best of both worlds. It keeps public notices in places where more people can find them by ensuring the widest distribution,” said Senator Yager. “This measure comes with no extra costs to taxpayers, and promotes government transparency, efficiency and public trust. I am pleased that it has been approved by the full Senate and honored for its passage during a week that embraces openness in government.”

Categories
NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Newspapers Back Online Notice Bill

Legal notices like public auctions and meeting announcements would have to be published online, as well as in newspapers, under a bill that is headed to both state House and Senate calendar committees to be scheduled for floor votes.

Newspapers that are eligible to print legal notices would be required to post them on their website and a site maintained by the Tennessee Press Association, starting April 1, 2014, under the amended versions of House Bill 1001 and Senate Bill 461. The notices would be published on the Internet for the same period of time notices are published in the newspaper and at no extra cost to the person or business.

The bill is backed by the association, sponsor Sen. Ken Yager said. The Senate bill passed in the State and Local Government Committee he chairs, while the House State Government Committee approved the bill earlier Tuesday morning.

“The reason we’re doing this is we’ve been faced in recent years with multiple attempts to remove public notices from newspapers and put them on government websites exclusively,” the TPA’s Frank Gibson said.

“Fewer than a third of households in Tennessee ever see a government website, but over two-thirds either read the newspaper or the newspaper’s website,” said Gibson, the association’s public policy director. “That combination vehicle is the way to reach the widest audience.”

Ken Yager

Yager, a Republican, told the committee that the bill will not only “put in practice a system that will ensure the widest circulation of legal notices, but most important, legal notices will continue to be published by those institutions that are independent of the government.”

The Harriman representative said he thinks the bill combines the best of both worlds.

“It keeps public notice in places where most people can find them, which promote government transparency and public trust.”

According to Gibson, many, if not most, newspapers currently post public notices on both their own websites and TPA’s statewide aggregate website for no additional charge.

“TPA has 122 newspapers. Only two do not have websites, and they are in the process of building websites now,” Gibson said, adding they will be fully operational months before the bill takes effect.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@capitolnewstn.com, on Twitter @CapitolNews_TN or at 615-442-8667.

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Press Releases

TN Press Association Announces 2012 Newspaper Contest Winners

Press release from the Tennessee Press Association; July 13, 2012: 

UT, Tennessee Press Association Announce 2012 Newspaper Contest Winners

NASHVILLE – Newspaper editors, writers, designers and publishers won top awards today in the Tennessee Press Association’s 2012 newspaper contest, co-sponsored by the University of Tennessee.

The Tennessean (Nashville), the Jackson Sun, Southern Standard (McMinnville), Grainger Today (Bean Station), the Gallatin News Examiner and Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough) won the top general excellence awards at the association’s awards luncheon held today in Nashville.

General excellence honors are based on total points accumulated for awards in five categories, based on average weekly circulation.

This marks the fourth time in five years that Southern Standard has won the general excellence award. This also marks the third year in a row that the Jackson Sun has won in its category. This year’s results also produced a rare tie, with Grainger Today and the Gallatin News Examiner sharing the general excellence award in the same category.

The Texas Press Association judged a total of 1,401 entries from 73 of the association’s 122 member newspapers. UT has co-sponsored the annual contest since 1940.

Other highlights:

  • The Tennessean received nine first-place honors in its circulation category, for best single feature, sports writing, editorials, best spot news coverage, best news reporting, best education reporting, investigative reporting, best special issue or section and best website.
  • The Shelbyville Times-Gazette and Southern Standard each received six first-place awards. The Times-Gazette won for make-up and appearance, best personal column, investigative reporting, headline writing, public service and best special issue or section. Southern Standard won for best single feature, editorials, best personal humor column, best spot news coverage, best news reporting and promotion of newspapers.

The university’s Edward J. Meeman Foundation honored newspapers for their accomplishments in editorial writing and public service journalism with $250 awards in the categories of editorials, best single editorial and public service.

Newspapers receiving Meeman awards:

  • The Tennessean, the Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville), Southern Standard, Memphis Business Journal and the Portland Leader, editorials;
  • News Sentinel (Knoxville), the Daily Herald (Columbia), the Mountain Press (Sevierville), Grainger Today and Herald and Tribune, best single editorial; and
  • News Sentinel, the Leaf-Chronicle, Shelbyville Times-Gazette, Gallatin News Examiner and Chester County Independent (Henderson), public service.

The foundation was established in 1968 at UT to fund the contests, provide professional critiques of journalists’ work and support journalism students and faculty.

Additional top winners in the overall contest include:

  • Chattanooga Times Free Press, for local features, best personal column, best news photograph, best sports photograph and promotion of newspapers;
  • Gallatin News Examiner, for best personal column, best news reporting, investigative reporting, public service and best special issue or section; and
  • News Sentinel, for make-up and appearance, Sunday editions, best graphics and/or illustrations, best single editorial and public service.

A complete list of winners is available by visiting www.utk.edu/tntoday/wp-content/uploads/2012-master-list.pdf.

Best Education Reporting

1. The Erwin Record

2. Chester County Independent

3. The Portland Leader

4. Ashland City Times

5. The Bartlett Express

Sports Writing

1. The Portland Leader

2. Ashland City Times

3. Cannon Courier

4. Carroll County News-Leader

5. Herald and Tribune

Best Sports Photograph

1. Ashland City Times

2. The Erwin Record

3. The News Leader

4. The Camden Chronicle

5. Chester County Independent

Make-Up and Appearance

1. The Erwin Record

2. The Bledsonian-Banner

3. The Portland Leader

4. The News Leader

5. Independent Herald

Best Special Issue or Section

1. The Courier News

2. The Tomahawk

3. The News Leader

4. The Portland Leader

5. The Erwin Record

Best Website

1. Independent Herald

2. Ashland City Times

3. The Portland Leader

4. Herald and Tribune

5. Lake County Banner

Community Lifestyles

1. The Erwin Record

2. Herald and Tribune

3. Carroll County News-Leader

4. Independent Herald

5. Chester County Independent

Best Personal Column

1. The Tomahawk

2. Chester County Independent

3. The Tomahawk

4. Independent Herald

5. The Erwin Record

Best Personal Humor Column

1. Carroll County News-Leader

2. The Erwin Record

3. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

4. Chester County Independent

5. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

Local Features

1. The Erwin Record

2. Mt. Juliet News

3. Herald and Tribune

4. The Millington Star

5. The Portland Leader

Best Single Feature

1. Macon County Times

2. The Erwin Record

3. Independent Herald

4. Chester County Independent

5. The Tomahawk

Best Feature Photograph

1. Cannon Courier

2. The Erwin Record

3. The Portland Leader

4. Carroll County News-Leader

5. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

Headline Writing

1. Cannon Courier

2. The Portland Leader

3. The Camden Chronicle

4. The Erwin Record

5. Chester County Independent

Editorials – Meeman winner

1. The Portland Leader

2. Independent Herald

3. Carroll County News-Leader

4. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

5. Chester County Independent

Best Single Editorial – Meeman winner

1. Herald and Tribune

2. Independent Herald

3. Herald and Tribune

4. The News Leader

5. The Portland Leader

Public Service – Meeman winner

1. Chester County Independent

2. The Tomahawk

3. Mt. Juliet News

4. Herald and Tribune

5. The Millington Star

Best Spot News Coverage

1. Herald and Tribune

2. Herald and Tribune

3. The Portland Leader

4. Ashland City Times

5. Mt. Juliet News

Best News Reporting

1. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

2. Independent Herald

3. Mt. Juliet News

4. Ashland City Times

5. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

Best News Photograph

1. The Milan Mirror-Exchange

2. Cannon Courier

3. Independent Herald

4. Lake County Banner

5. Lake County Banner

Investigative Reporting

1. Herald and Tribune

2. The Portland Leader

3. Mt. Juliet News

4. Herald and Tribune

5. The Tomahawk

GROUP II

Best Education Reporting

1. Pulaski Citizen

2. Robertson County Times

3. The Advocate and Democrat

4. Manchester Times

5. Gallatin News Examiner

Sports Writing

1. Pulaski Citizen

2. The Standard Banner

3. The Dickson Herald

4. Independent Appeal

5. Weakley County Press

Best Sports Photograph

1. Carthage Courier

2. The Advocate and Democrat

3. The Dickson Herald

4. The Standard Banner

5. The LaFollette Press

Make-Up and Appearance

1. The Leader

2. The Standard Banner

3. The Courier

4. The Herald-News

5. The Rogersville Review

Best Special Issue or Section

1. Gallatin News Examiner

2. The Standard Banner

3. Manchester Times

4. The Herald-News

5. The Leader

Best Website

1. Manchester Times

2. The Daily News

3. Carthage Courier

4. Memphis Business Journal

5. The Rogersville Review

Community Lifestyles

1. The Leader

2. Carthage Courier

3. Pulaski Citizen

4. Grainger Today

5. The Elk Valley Times

Best Personal Column

1. Gallatin News Examiner

2. The Advocate and Democrat

3. The LaFollette Press

4. The Leader

5. The LaFollette Press

Best Personal Humor Column

1. Grainger Today

2. The Advocate and Democrat

3. Memphis Business Journal

4. The LaFollette Press

5. Hickman County Times

Local Features

1. The Leader

2. Memphis Business Journal

3. The Standard Banner

4. Gallatin News Examiner

5. Grainger Today

Best Single Feature

1. The Daily News

2. The LaFollette Press

3. Gallatin News Examiner

4. The Standard Banner

5. The Courier

Best Feature Photograph

1. Carthage Courier

2. Grainger Today

3. The Rogersville Review

4. Gallatin News Examiner

5. The Standard Banner

Headline Writing

1. The Rogersville Review

2. The Courier

3. Independent Appeal

4. Grainger Today

5. Pulaski Citizen

Editorials – Meeman winner

1. Memphis Business Journal

2. Manchester Times

3. Grainger Today

4. The LaFollette Press

5. The Rogersville Review

Best Single Editorial – Meeman winner

1. Grainger Today

2. Grainger Today

3. Memphis Business Journal

4. Manchester Times

5. The Courier

Public Service – Meeman winner

1. Gallatin News Examiner

2. Hickman County Times

3. Grainger Today

4. The Standard Banner

5. The Rogersville Review

Best Spot News Coverage

1. Manchester Times

2. The Daily News

3. The Standard Banner

4. Pulaski Citizen

5. The Leader

Best News Reporting

1. Gallatin News Examiner

2. Grainger Today

3. The Dickson Herald

4. The Standard Banner

5. Grainger Today

Best News Photograph

1. Robertson County Times

2. The Courier

3. Pulaski Citizen

4. Carthage Courier

5. Manchester Times

Investigative Reporting

1. Gallatin News Examiner

2. Gallatin News Examiner

3. Hickman County Times

4. The Herald-News

5. Grainger Today

GROUP III

Best Education Reporting

1. Union City Daily Messenger

2. Southern Standard

3. The Daily Post-Athenian

4. The Wilson Post

5. The Tullahoma News

Sports Writing

1. The Mountain Press

2. The Newport Plain Talk

3. Union City Daily Messenger

4. Southern Standard

5. The Tullahoma News

Best Sports Photograph

1. The Lebanon Democrat

2. The Mountain Press

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. The Daily Post-Athenian

5. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

Make-Up and Appearance

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. Southern Standard

3. The Herald Chronicle

4. The Paris Post-Intelligencer

5. The Wilson Post

Best Special Issue or Section

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. Union City Daily Messenger

3. Crossville Chronicle

4. The Lebanon Democrat

5. The Newport Plain Talk

Best Website

1. The Wilson Post

2. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

3. Union City Daily Messenger

4. Roane County News

5. Southern Standard

Community Lifestyles

1. The Mountain Press

2. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

3. The Wilson Post

4. The Daily Post-Athenian

5. Southern Standard

Best Personal Column

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. The Daily Post-Athenian

3. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

4. Roane County News

5. Crossville Chronicle

Best Personal Humor Column

1. Southern Standard

2. The Daily Post-Athenian

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. Southern Standard

5. Union City Daily Messenger

Local Features

1. The Tullahoma News

2. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. Southern Standard

5. Crossville Chronicle

Best Single Feature

1. Southern Standard

2. The Lebanon Democrat

3. The Herald Chronicle

4. Roane County News

5. The Mountain Press

Best Feature Photograph

1. The Daily Post-Athenian

2. Union City Daily Messenger

3. The Wilson Post

4. Southern Standard

5. Southern Standard

Headline Writing

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. Union City Daily Messenger

3. The Lebanon Democrat

4. The Wilson Post

5. Southern Standard

Editorials – Meeman winner

1. Southern Standard

2. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

3. The Paris Post-Intelligencer

4. The Daily Post-Athenian

5. The Wilson Post

Best Single Editorial – Meeman winner

1. The Mountain Press

2. The Daily Post-Athenian

3. The Mountain Press

4. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

5. Southern Standard

Public Service – Meeman winner

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. Southern Standard

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. The Wilson Post

5. The Lebanon Democrat

Best Spot News Coverage

1. Southern Standard

2. The Mountain Press

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

5. The Tullahoma News

Best News Reporting

1. Southern Standard

2. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

3. The Newport Plain Talk

4. The Lebanon Democrat

5. Union City Daily Messenger

Best News Photograph

1. Roane County News

2. Southern Standard

3. Roane County News

4. The Newport Plain Talk

5. Southern Standard

Investigative Reporting

1. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

2. The Wilson Post

3. no award

4. no award

5. no award

GROUP IV

Best Education Reporting

1. Herald-Citizen

2. The Daily News Journal

3. The Jackson Sun

4. Johnson City Press

5. Cleveland Daily Banner

Sports Writing

1. The Greeneville Sun

2. The Daily Herald

3. The Jackson Sun

4. Johnson City Press

5. Cleveland Daily Banner

Best Sports Photograph

1. Cleveland Daily Banner

2. Elizabethton Star

3. Johnson City Press

4. Herald-Citizen

5. The Leaf-Chronicle

Make-Up and Appearance

1. Johnson City Press

2. The Jackson Sun

3. The Daily Times

4. Bristol Herald Courier

5. The Greeneville Sun

Best Special Issue or Section

1. Cleveland Daily Banner

2. Elizabethton Star

3. The Jackson Sun

4. The Daily News Journal

5. The Leaf-Chronicle

Best Website

1. Elizabethton Star

2. Johnson City Press

3. The Leaf-Chronicle

4. The Daily News Journal

5. The Daily Herald

Community Lifestyles

1. The Leaf-Chronicle

2. The Daily Times

3. Cleveland Daily Banner

4. Citizen Tribune

5. The Daily Herald

Best Personal Column

1. Cleveland Daily Banner

2. The Daily Herald

3. Bristol Herald Courier

4. The Daily Times

5. The Jackson Sun

Best Personal Humor Column

1. The Greeneville Sun

2. The Jackson Sun

3. The Greeneville Sun

4. The Daily Times

5. The Daily Herald

Local Features

1. Cleveland Daily Banner

2. Johnson City Press

3. The Daily News Journal

4. Bristol Herald Courier

5. The Jackson Sun

Best Single Feature

1. Herald-Citizen

2. The Daily Herald

3. Bristol Herald Courier

4. Johnson City Press

5. The Daily Herald

Best Feature Photograph

1. The Daily Times

2. The Leaf-Chronicle

3. Elizabethton Star

4. The Jackson Sun

5. Herald-Citizen

Headline Writing

1. Johnson City Press

2. The Daily Times

3. The Greeneville Sun

4. Bristol Herald Courier

5. The Daily Herald

Editorials – Meeman winner

1. The Leaf-Chronicle

2. The Daily Herald

3. The Jackson Sun

4. Cleveland Daily Banner

5. Elizabethton Star

Best Single Editorial – Meeman winner

1. The Daily Herald

2. The Daily News Journal

3. The Jackson Sun

4. The Daily News Journal

5. The Leaf-Chronicle

Public Service – Meeman winner

1. The Leaf-Chronicle

2. Cleveland Daily Banner

3. The Greeneville Sun

4. The Daily Herald

5. The Daily Times

Best Spot News Coverage

1. Bristol Herald Courier

2. The Jackson Sun

3. The Greeneville Sun

4. The Daily Herald

5. The Jackson Sun

Best News Reporting

1. The Greeneville Sun

2. The Daily Herald

3. Citizen Tribune

4. The Jackson Sun

5. The Daily News Journal

Best News Photograph

1. The Daily Herald

2. The Leaf-Chronicle

3. Bristol Herald Courier

4. The Jackson Sun

5. The Daily Times

Investigative Reporting

1. The Jackson Sun

2. The Daily Times

3. Elizabethton Star

4. The Jackson Sun

5. The Daily News Journal

GROUP V

Best Education Reporting

1. The Tennessean

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. no award

5. no award

Sports Writing

1. The Tennessean

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. Chattanooga Times Free Press

4. News Sentinel

5. no award

Best Sports Photograph

1. Chattanooga Times Free Press

2. The Tennessean

3. News Sentinel

4. Kingsport Times-News

5. Kingsport Times-News

Make-Up and Appearance

1. News Sentinel

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. Chattanooga Times Free Press

4. The Tennessean

5. no award

Best Special Issue or Section

1. The Tennessean

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. News Sentinel

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. no award

Best Website

1. The Tennessean

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. News Sentinel

5. no award

Community Lifestyles

1. The Commercial Appeal

2. The Tennessean

3. News Sentinel

4. Chattanooga Times Free Press

5. no award

Best Personal Column

1. Chattanooga Times Free Press

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. News Sentinel

4. News Sentinel

5. The Tennessean

Best Personal Humor Column

1. The Commercial Appeal

2. The Tennessean

3. The Tennessean

4. Chattanooga Times Free Press

5. Chattanooga Times Free Press

Local Features

1. Chattanooga Times Free Press

2. The Tennessean

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. no award

5. no award

Best Single Feature

1. The Tennessean

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. Chattanooga Times Free Press

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. The Tennessean

Best Feature Photograph

1. The Commercial Appeal

2. Kingsport Times-News

3. The Tennessean

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. Chattanooga Times Free Press

Headline Writing

1. The Commercial Appeal

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. News Sentinel

4. Kingsport Times-News

5. The Tennessean

Editorials – Meeman winner

1. The Tennessean

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. Chattanooga Times Free Press

4. Kingsport Times-News

5. no award

Best Single Editorial – Meeman winner

1. News Sentinel

2. The Tennessean

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. News Sentinel

5. The Commercial Appeal

Public Service – Meeman winner

1. News Sentinel

2. The Tennessean

3. Chattanooga Times Free Press

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. no award

Best Spot News Coverage

1. The Tennessean

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. News Sentinel

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. News Sentinel

Best News Reporting

1. The Tennessean

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. News Sentinel

5. Kingsport Times-News

Best News Photograph

1. Chattanooga Times Free Press

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. News Sentinel

4. The Commercial Appeal

5. The Commercial Appeal

Investigative Reporting

1. The Tennessean

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. News Sentinel

4. The Tennessean

5. News Sentinel

GROUPS I, II AND III

Best Graphics and/or Illustrations

1. The Standard Banner

2. Herald and Tribune

3. Southern Standard

4. Independent Appeal

5. Pulaski Citizen

Promotion of Newspapers

1. Southern Standard

2. Herald and Tribune

3. Shelbyville Times-Gazette

4. Grainger Today

5. Carthage Courier

GROUPS IV AND V

Best Graphics and/or Illustrations

1. News Sentinel

2. Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. The Commercial Appeal

4. The Tennessean

5. The Daily Times

Promotion of Newspapers

1. Chattanooga Times Free Press

2. The Daily Times

3. Elizabethton Star

4. The Daily Herald

5. The Greeneville Sun

DAILIES

Sunday Editions

1. News Sentinel

2. The Commercial Appeal

3. The Tennessean

4. Chattanooga Times Free Press

5. Bristol Herald Courier

GENERAL EXCELLENCE

Group I: Herald and Tribune

Group II: Grainger Today, Gallatin News Examiner (tie)

Group III: Southern Standard

Group IV: The Jackson Sun

Group V: The Tennessean

Categories
News NewsTracker Transparency and Elections Video

VIDEO: Taxpayers vs. Transparency? Give-and-Take with the Guv

A Gov. Bill Haslam-backed legislative proposal to offer secrecy to businesses applying for millions of dollars in state grants is up for a vote in the Senate Thursday.

Last week in Nashville during the Tennessee Press Association’s Winter Convention, Elenora Edwards, managing editor of TPA’s statewide trade publication, took the governor to task somewhat on that and other transparency-curbing administration initiatives.

Check out their exchange:

Categories
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.”