Rep. Watson: Selected Or Elected

Thursday, December 08, 2011 - by Rep. Eric Watson
Rep. Eric Watson
Rep. Eric Watson

How should Tennessee choose those who serve as our judges? The Constitution is clear in Article VI, Section 4. However back in 1994, a slim majority of the Tennessee General Assembly were convinced that “elected,” as stated in our constitution, could also mean “selected.” Former Lt. Governor John Wilder lead the fight for what has become known as the “Tennessee Plan,” a system that allowed judges to be appointed and then face the voters with a yes or no retention vote by the people.

This system allowed a select number of special interest groups to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission then interviewed candidates for judicial vacancies and submitted three names to the governor. In some cases the governor could reject all the names and ask for a new list of candidates. In other cases the governor was forced to choose from the list submitted.

The composition of the Judicial Selection Commission has changed over the years but most of the selection process remains in place today. Many on Capitol Hill believe it is time to literally take the meaning of the word “elected” in our state constitution and allow the people to vote in traditional elections for our judges.

Each year several of our state agencies and boards face what are called sunset provisions. In order for a board or commission to continue their existence, that entity must report to the legislature and justify its renewal of authority. The Judicial Selection Commission is set to sunset in 2012. If the legislature fails to reauthorize the commission, a key component of our judicial selection process will cease to exist. Many legal experts believe that without the Judicial Selection Commission Tennessee will again be required to elect judges as we did before the Tennessee plan.

There are some legitimate reasons to consider keeping the Tennessee plan, however, at a very minimum the State Constitution must be amended to comply with the current practice of “selecting” judges. In such a case the people must approve the change at the ballot box back. That is how our state founding fathers intended for our state constitution to be amended. One of the most repeated arguments for retaining the Tennessee Plan is that the high cost of political campaigns could corrupt our judicial system. This is a legitimate concern; however it is possible to have judges comply with a different set of campaign finance laws than typical political campaigns. A few have even proposed some type of heavy restrictions on fundraising by judges with public financing as a part of the solution. This is a radical change that must be seriously discussed before moving forward. One thing is for certain, it is time for fundamental change in the process. Our state constitution is a sacred document that we must follow, not merely pages of suggestions for governing of state. Please give me your thoughts on how we should select judges in Tennessee.

Next week I will talk about community organizations that have help our district’s less fortunate over the Christmas holidays. If you know about a group that has done a great job helping others please call my office at 339-0939 and let me hear about it.

Rep. Eric Watson


Shine The Light On IDB Board Members

The recent news that IDB member Chris Ramsey is not a city resident makes me wonder what kind of accountability do these people have to the taxpayers? I've posed the question before: Who is on the board? Since it is such a mystery as to who is on the board and whether they are even legitimately qualified to sit on the board, how can they be trusted to handle millions of taxpayer ... (click for more)

Immigration

Remember when Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, except for those brown-skinned Spanish-speaking children from south of the Rio Grande”? Yea, me neither. But you’d pressed hard-pressed to find any among the Republican Tea Party crowd who don’t believe (or at least wish strongly enough to believe, which is good enough for $COTU$) ... (click for more)

Rhasean Lowry, 34, Charged In Death of 3-Year-Old Girl

Rhasean Lowry, 34, was arrested for abusing a three-year-old girl, and then criminal homicide after she died. Last Tuesday, the Chattanooga Police Department was called on a suspected child abuse case. Lowry took the victim to a local hospital and he stated the victim fell down steps. Doctors advised that the victim’s injuries were the result of blunt force trauma consistent ... (click for more)

City IDB Member Who Made Motion For $9 Million Black Creek TIF Had Not Lived In City For Years

A City Industrial Development Board (IDB) member who made the motion to approve a controversial $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) had not lived in the city for years, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed. Chris Ramsey, a BlueCross BlueShield official, was not present at an IDB meeting on Tuesday morning. Five other board members were. Citizen Helen Burns ... (click for more)

Fast-Starting Vols Gear Up For Another Mobile QB

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It’s a new week for Tennessee’s football team, but the challenge that awaits in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon will be a familiar reminder of the one the Volunteers just completed. The Volunteers have a short week to prepare for Arkansas State, a team much like Utah State, which relies heavily on a dual-threat quarterback and a physical front line. ... (click for more)

Chris O'Brien And Andres Santiago Named To Southern League's Weekly Honors

Tuesday, the Southern League announced that Chattanooga Lookouts’ catcher Chris O’Brien has been named Southern League Player of the Week and pitcher Andres Santiago was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for the period of August 25-September 1.  O’Brien is the fourth Chattanooga Lookouts’ position player to earn a weekly accolade from the league this season while ... (click for more)