Please allow this to address two misimpressions with which this article might leave your readers.
First, the article indicates that the courts which have ruled on the constitutionality of retention elections somehow have a bias. The issue of the constitutionality of retention elections did not effect the appointment or elections of either of the Tennessee Supreme Court panels which have ruled on the issue. The first such case was in 1974. The most recent panel was a special Tennessee Supreme Court appointed by Governor Sundquist to hear the issue in 1996. In addition, the constitutionality has been upheld in the face of two challenges in the U.S. District Courts.
Second, the Tennessee Constitution would have to be amended to give the Governor the power to fill vacancies between judicial elections. The Tennessee Bar Association believes that the current method, where the Governor receives the names of three of the best qualified lawyers from an expert panel is much preferable to giving a Governor sole power to fill vacancies.
The Tennessee Bar Association is a strong proponent of the Tennessee Plan for merit selection, evaluation, and retention of judges. We believe that the system leads to a fair and impartial judiciary with less partisan and campaign contribution influence over judicial decision-making.
Marcia M. Eason
President, Tennessee Bar Association
January 9, 2008