The other day Larry asked me to do a research on Amendment 2 and come up with arguments for what he wanted to say in an address he was about to give. Regrettably, I did not know anything about Amendment 2, which will be on the ballot in November, but I started and researching and was a little disappointed with what I found.
Currently, the Tennessee Constitution says, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state…”. From “shall be elected by the qualified voters” we derived an interesting process. Step one, a committee of attorneys, non-attorneys, and judges choose three candidates for the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. Step two, the governor chooses from those three candidates. However, if the governor does not find any of the three candidates satisfactory, he can deny all of them but the governor must choose from the second round of three. Step three, once the governor has made his decision, the appointed (not elected) judge starts to work immediately, finishing out whatever term is left from the previous judge. At the end of that term, the judge comes up for a retention election. A retention election is simply the judges name is placed on a ballot with a “yes” or “no” option with no other candidates for judge. If the people happen to all vote no, then the process restarts and a new judge is appointed.
Amendment two attempts to change the language of the Tennessee Constitution to say,
Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state.
While the amendment does not actually change the current process much. For instance, it only switches the order by which the governors are chosen. Step one, the governor appoints a judge from whatever pool of candidates he likes. Step two, the legislature either approves or denies the candidate within sixty days. Step three, the people have a say in the same sort of retention election as before. However, this new amendment does allow for the legislature and governor to pretend like they have always been following the constitution.
Personally, I think that this is a bad amendment and I would prefer we go back to what the constitution originally required where the qualified voters get to elect the supreme court.
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