Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee, addressing hundreds of Knoxville-area attorneys at the annual Knoxville Bar Association Supreme Court Dinner Wednesday night, threw her support behind Amendment 2, which would change the Tennessee Constitution’s provisions for how judges are appointed and elected.
In regard to Amendment 2, Chief Justice Lee said it will eliminate any doubt about the constitutionality of the method of selection of the state’s appellate judges and urged the attorneys to vote in favor of it on Nov. 4.
“There have been decades of disagreement and lawsuits contesting our method of selecting our appellate judiciary, and we need to bring clarity, finality, and stability to this selection system,“ she said. “Amendment 2 accomplishes this goal.”
Amendment 2 changes the constitution to provide that appellate judges will be appointed by the governor, confirmed by the Legislature and elected in a retention election by the voters.
She went on to say that while “no system is perfect…Amendment 2 follows several fundamental principles of our system of government including legislative oversight.
“The system Amendment 2 proposes creates the right balance between making sure we have an independent, diverse and qualified judiciary to uphold the rule of law, while still having accountability to the people and our elected representatives,” she said.
Chief Justice Lee also thanked the attorneys and guests for their support in the recent retention election, in which she, Justice Cornelia Clark, and Justice Gary Wade were retained to serve another eight years on the state Supreme Court.
With more than 100 new judges taking office across the state in 2014, Chief Justice Lee summed up the state of the judiciary in one word – “change.” She recognized the two new members of the Supreme Court – Justice Jeffrey Bivins and Justice Holly Kirby – as well as the six new appellate judges that are serving across the state and the five new trial judges in Knoxville.
She also thanked retiring Appellate Court Judge Joe Tipton, Chancellor Daryl Fansler, Judge Mary Beth Lebowitz, Judge Bill Swann, Judge Harold Wimberly, Judge Dale Workman, and District Attorney General Randy Nichols for their service to the people of Knox County and East Tennessee.
She concluded that other changes on the horizon include tools that utilize technology to make it easier for attorneys to conduct business in the court system.
The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Tennessee State Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police announced they are supporting the passage of Amendment 2.
“Amendment 2 brings new clarity and accountability to the process of selecting Tennessee’s Supreme Court and appellate court judges,” said FOP President Johnny Crumby. “We need the best judges, not the best politicians. Amendment 2 will help ensure that we get the fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and need.”