Mumpower, TN GOP Want to Uphold State ConstitutionTennessee House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower addressed conservative activists and attorneys in Nashville over lunch Tuesday, and it should come as no surprise that returning to the constitutionally prescribed method of selecting our State appellate judges and justices-electing them-is near the top of the Republican agenda this year:
Judicial selection has been a perennial issue in Tennessee. Though the state constitution requires election of judges, the so-called "Tennessee Plan" from the 1970s created the Judicial Selection Commission, which reviews qualifications of potential judges, then recommends a slate from which the governor chooses. Judges then maintain their seats through retention elections.
These "retention elections" are not really elections at all, since the question is simply "shall so-and-so be named a judge of such-and-such court? YES/NO." Since Judge Yes or No has no opponent, has not campaigned, and rarely is known even among some of the more politically aware, Tennesseans do not elect their judges.
The Tennessee Constitution requires that judges be elected, not appointed by an appointed commission and retained in a referendum. What document did legislators take an oath to support and defend when they were sworn into office? Oh, I'm sorry, having heard the oath in person, I distinctly thought I heard every member swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the State of Tennessee." It's that document that says we are supposed to elect our judges, the one that middle school children do not read these days in class.
Tennessee Constitution Article VI, Secs. 2, 3, and 4:
The Supreme Court shall consist of five Judges, of whom not more than two shall reside in any one of the grand divisions of the State. The Judges shall designate one of their own number who shall preside as Chief Justice. The concurrence of three of the Judges shall in every case be necessary to a decision. The jurisdiction of this Court shall be appellate only, under such restrictions and regulations as may from time to time be prescribed by law; but it may possess such other jurisdiction as is now conferred by law on the present Supreme Court. Said Court shall be held at Knoxville, Nashville and Jackson.
The Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State. The Legislature shall have power to prescribe such rules as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of section two of this article. Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be thirty-five years of age, and shall before his election have been a resident of the State for five years. His term of service shall be eight years.
The Judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned. Every Judge of such Courts shall be thirty years of age, and shall before his election, have been a resident of the State for five years and of the circuit or district one year. His term of service shall be eight years.
Jason Mumpower has apparently latched on to the idea that the State must uphold the very Constitution that its officials are sworn to defend. The response to this idea from liberals is that Mumpower and the GOP are trying to "bring politics into the judicial selection process." Really? It would seem to me that our State Constitution all but mandates such judicial politicking, but that is beside the point. What liberals and Democrats really mean when they talk about not bringing politics into the judicial selection process is that they don't want the wrong politics brought into the selection of Tennessee's judiciary. If these folks actually said what they really mean, this is what we would all hear:
"The election of Supreme Court Justices and appellate judges is a bad thing in Tennessee because the population is innately conservative, and therefore the conservative, pro-life, pro-gun candidates would probably win these elections.
Planned Barrenhood would defecate upon their collective selves because liberal abortion policies would almost certainly be thrown by the wayside. Gun regulations would be far more lax. We can't have a judiciary that reflects the views of the people they serve, because the people are too stupid to know what is good for them. We, the Trial Lawyers, are to determine who shall be the judges, and they shall bend to our will, Amen."
After all, who needs the State Constitution when you have the Trial Lawyers' Association?