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VOL. 38 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 7, 2014

Haslam, lawmakers prep for judge selection change

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam and fellow Republicans in the General Assembly are putting forward plans for how to select Tennessee Supreme Court justices under a constitutional amendment ratified by voters this week.

Tuesday's vote largely kept the current system in which appeals judges are selected by the governor and then stand for uncontested votes on whether to retain or replace them.

Supporters said the amendment was necessary to clear up any lingering controversy over whether the judicial selection method conflicted with language in the state constitution that said justices "shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state."

The ballot measure also added a new provision under which the Legislature can reject the governor's appointments to the bench.

After the election Haslam issued an executive order establishing a new Governor's Council for Judicial Appointments. The 11-member council will vet applicants and present Haslam with a set of three finalists to choose from.

All the panel members will be selected by the governor. That's a departure from past practice, in which the speakers of the House and Senate could also appoint members. Lawmakers let that system expire, giving the governor wider control over the appointment method.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, introduced legislation that would establish a joint committee made up of seven senators and seven House members to consider gubernatorial appointments. That panel would make recommendations to the full House and Senate to determine whether to confirm or reject the governor's nominees.

Under Kelsey's proposal, a governor's nomination would be considered approved if the Legislature fails to act on it within 60 days.

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