Although I consider Roy Exum to be a friend, I must say that the views he expressed on July 13 about the state judicial retention elections are simply wrong and terribly misinformed. First, Roy said that all the state appellate judges should be replaced although he admits he has never met or heard of any of them. I know them personally having been a member of the Tennessee judiciary for over 25 years. I can truthfully say that Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee, Gary Wade, and all of the other appellate judges deserve to be retained in office. I am supported in my opinion by the Tennessee Judicial Evaluation Commission. That official commission, appointed by Lt. Governor Ramsey and Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell, after a thorough investigation, overwhelmingly endorsed all of these judges for retention.
Roy also complained that the justices should be voted down because they have raised campaign funds. I agree with Roy that it is preferable that judges not raise money for elections, but in this instance, the first in our state’s recent history, the judges have been forced to raise funds in order to defend themselves from unwarranted, false, and unfounded political attacks. Out-of-state special interests and some politicians are pouring thousands of dollars into Tennessee to defeat our justices and take over our courts. Negative ads are now airing, and mailings with false messages are appearing in our mailboxes. Apparently, these outside groups will stop at nothing to mislead our people. I am angered that out-of-state groups are trying to manipulate Tennessee voters, especially since these groups have even refused to reveal their donor lists.
Finally, Roy charged, without any specifics or facts, that “Tennessee is regarded as one of the most corrupt states in the country.” Roy must know in his heart of hearts that statement is simply not true. While we may all disagree from time to time with our elected officials, we know that most of them are honest and hard-working. To say that our state is corrupt is a most serious allegation. I know that our Tennessee Supreme Court is not corrupt. Having served on the Supreme Court for almost 11 years and as its Chief Justice for three years before retiring, I am offended by Roy’s inference that somehow I may have been a part of a “corrupt” court. I know that I and Justices Clark, Lee, and Wade have never made a court ruling based on political party affiliation or favoritism. Justices Clark, Lee and Wade are each honest, fair, and non-partisan. Their opponents are trying to turn the Court, a non-political branch of government, into one that rules in favor of their political agenda instead of the law and facts of cases as required by our Constitution and state law. I am a Republican, but politics has no place in a courtroom. Let’s keep it that way
I strongly encourage all my fellow Tennessee voters to cast their votes to ”Retain” Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee, and Gary Wade as well as to “Retain” the judges on the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals.