Judicial Selection Commission Goes to Court

Tennessee’s Judicial Selection Commission, at a meeting today, decided to request outside counsel to argue its case before Davidson County Chancery Court–in the ongoing struggle over filling the open Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice A.A. Birch.

Governor Phil Bredesen filed suit yesterday seeking a declaratory judgment, hoping to answer once and for all the question of whether the commission can re-recommend an applicant after a governor has requested a new slate of candidates.

The commission recommended Covington attorney J. Houston Gordon a second time, after Bredesen requested a new list that was more diverse. Commission member Bill Farmer says the group wanted its own lawyer to ensure all views would be heard, and says the judicial selection process works pretty well.

“I don’t think anybody’s trying to play politics. It’s definitely trying to get the very best people that we can. The system is designed so that no governor can simply pick anybody from anywhere he wants to be on the court. There has to be some screening for qualifications. And it’s also designed so that we can only send up three people each time.”

The Judicial Selection Commission forwards three names for the Governor to choose from after interviewing all applicants.

Attorney General Paul Summers filed the suit on Bredesen’s behalf, and will also be the one to nominate the outside counsel for the Selection Commission. Bredesen said this week that he wants to work with the legislature this year to possibly change how judges are selected.

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