Amendment 2 Gives Judicial Branch To State’s Political Elites

  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
  • David Tulis

Tennesseans should not be snookered by the political establishment’s power grab in Amendment 2.  

The constitutional revision is a concession you are asked to give to the legal and political elites in Nashville.

It is presented in a flier this week in a deceptive way as a measure that protects a right, yet really it is a surrendering of a right. 

[The Tulis short list: Shaun Crowell for governor (constitution party), yes on Amendment 1 (babies), No on 2 (judges), yes on 3 (forbid an income tax), yes on 4 (veterans groups fundraising by raffle).] 

The grandees such as former federal Senator Fred Thompson propose that you give up your right to elect judges, and accept instead an illegality that has been imposed on the people since 1971. That is a system whereby appeals court judges are put on the bench by the governor with nods from the legislature. 

What we’re told

Crony politicians say the amendment “adds new checks and balances” so appellate judges “are more accountable to the rule of law and the people of Tennessee.” Voting yes “strengthens the voice of Tennesseans in selecting our appellate court judges, so we get fair and impartial judges held accountable to the people of Tennessee.” The measure “improves the way we select the judges.” As we do not elect judges anymore, we have a right to retain or fire judges at the end of eight-year terms. “Amendment 2 protects the right of Tennesseans to vote to keep or fire the judges at the end of their respective terms.” The control given to the governor and legislature is described as a “new layer of accountability by having our elected representatives in the legislature confirm or reject the governor’s appointees.” 

The truth about judicial elections

An argument for Amendment 2 made by establishment barnacles such as former justice Mickey Barker and former Governor Bill Bredesen is that it will keep politics out of judicial elections, it will “help keep special interest money away from our judges and out of our state,” declares. 

However, it’s better to have politics in public, and among voters and donors, than in the high-octane private world of law firms, debt and cartel capitalists, plaintiffs and defendants and judicial organizations. If would-be judges can’t run before the people in open elections, they certainly will run to be appointed by Governor Haslam or his successor. Rather than open politicking, Amendment 2 promises secret petitioning and genuflecting.

You should understand that your right to vote for judges is one to be exercised before a judge takes office, not after he’s been in for eight years. Would you like to vote for federal president after he served eight years? Would you like to vote for your state senator after he had been appointed by a member of the executive branch and served eight years? No, you wouldn’t. We are supposed to think that for judges, a Soviet-style approval list is in order, and that these men should not really be held accountable to the public for election and re-election.

Voting no on 2 lets you the voter have at least a prospect someday of voting again for judges as we did prior to 1971. Voting no gives hope for overturning by litigation the current system that is illegal and unconstitutional. Voting no is your refusal to alter the constitution to make it fit an illegal law. Voting no is a way of saying you believe in the rule of law.

Knavery writ as law

To complete the impression that Amendment 2 is dishonest, consider its wording and placement on the ballot. It says “Shall article VI, section 3[,] of the constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentence and by substituting instead the following: *** ” The measure does not tell us what is being deleted, namely this important recognition of the people’s authority that is the current (but ignored) law: “The judges of the supreme court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.”

Irregularities mark Amendment 2, such as it having been part of a legislative package embracing more than one subject. Its foundational irregularity is its undemocratic nature, its reducing a three-part state government of executive, legislative and judicial two a two-branch form of government. Amendment 2 puts the judiciary and its players in the hands of the governor and his pals, a form of subjugation.

Liberty is to be found when the state is divided, when centers of power are shared rather than consolidated. The state’s political lords want less trouble from appeals court judges. Of that we have already too little. There is too little independence among judges, who support commercial government and accept the diminishment of the rights of the people as a matter of course. 

Amendment 2 darkens the people’s prospects for liberty and its defense.

— David Tulis hosts 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at Hot News Talk Radio 1240 and 910, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.

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