Tennesseans haven’t heard the end of the year-long battle over who should be on the state Supreme Court and how they should be selected, Chief Justice William “Mickey” Barker told Chattanooga Kiwanis Club members Tuesday.
Currently, justices are nominated by the Judicial Selection Commission, which submits the names of three nominees at a time to the governor.
The governor then chooses one of the three and appoints that individual to the court.
At least that’s how the process is supposed to work. But last year, Gov. Phil Bredesen charged that the selection committee was deliberately thwarting his efforts to make the court diverse, and sued the group.
The dispute began in 2006 when Justice E. Riley Anderson and Justice Birch both retired on the same day.
Since Justice Birch was the only African-American on the court, there was widespread concern that his retirement would mean the Supreme Court might once again be composed entirely of whites.
Following a series of legal battles, the dispute finally ended earlier this summer. Gov. Bredesen selected Presiding Judge William C. Koch Jr. of the Court of Appeals to fill a vacancy created in 2006 by the retirement of Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr.
Justice Koch is white.
Tuesday, Chief Justice Barker predicted the whole issue will be visited again when the legislature convenes early next year. Already, some lawmakers have called for changes in the Tennessee Plan, the state’s current judicial selection process.