Sen. Rosalind Kurita (D-Clarksville) said Wednesday Tennessee citizens deserve to be more involved in the process of choosing the state’s attorney general.
She noted that since Paul Summers’ retirement at the end of September, an interim, Solicitor General Michael Moore, has been serving as attorney general.
She said, "What concerns me is that no one in Tennessee voted on Mr. Moore." He was appointed by the members of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“Tennesseans should elect our attorney general. It’s that simple. We’re the only state in the country with a process that is so confusing and controversial. We have the selection of the individual who should be the 'peoples’ lawyer' left to a few individuals who are not elected. In other states, the people either elect the attorney general or the governor, elected by the people, appoints the attorney general. In our system, there’s no way for the public to select the attorney general.”
Sen. Kurita said that Mr. Summers’ retirement made the issue of how the attorney general is chosen particularly relevant. She also mentioned an upcoming lecture by recently retired Justice Adolpho Birch, Jr. on the topic “Tennessee’s Controversial Selection Process of Supreme Court Justices and Attorney General” as evidence that interest in the issue is increasing.
“We have an internal selection process that is devoid of public input,” Sen. Kurita said. “We should be electing our attorney general. Not only do people not know who their attorney general is, but also they don’t even know how that person is chosen.”
“I would bet that very few Tennesseans have ever heard of Michael Moore,” Sen. Kurita said. “They might think he produces liberal documentaries. They certainly don’t think he’s our acting attorney general.
“I have consistently filed legislation that would amend our state’s constitution to correct this problem and it has fallen on deaf ears,” Sen. Kurita said. “I will continue pushing this legislation because I believe we need truly open government. People should get a chance to look at candidates and choose the individual who is best qualified to represent them as attorney general. The current process is about keeping people out. I want to bring people in to government.”
Sen. Kurita said the timing is right to begin a conversation with Tennesseans about electing the attorney general.
“Paul Summers’ retirement gives us a tremendous opportunity to examine the way we choose our attorney general,” Sen. Kurita said. “We need to have an open, honest dialogue with the people of our state. We should end the secrets and insider games and let the people decide.”