Frank Cagle wonders what might happen if voters reject the judicial selection amendment:
But if the voters reject the amendment, conservatives will likely bring a bill to call for the election of judges to the courts of appeal and the state Supreme Court. A bill could be brought to require judges who are retained in the 2014 election, instead of having an eight-year term, having to face popular election in 2016.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the speaker of the Senate, argues that the constitution calls for judges to be elected by the “qualified voters of the state” and the amendment will make appointed judges constitutional. Ramsey is opposed to electing judges, citing his own statewide race for governor: “You are always raising money.” If the amendment fails, he says he will work to find a solution that is constitutional. The big question is: How?
White’s colleague at the University of Tennessee School of Law, Professor Judy Cornett, says the basic flaw in Kelsey’s plan is how the governor will be guided in his selections. Without a process for applicants to be vetted, how will the governor make his choices?
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed another commission to advise him on judicial selections, similar to the old system abolished by the Legislature. But it is no longer required, Cornett says, “there is an absence in the law of any method of bringing qualified candidates to the governor.” White says “we have a good governor now, but what about the future?”
Kelsey argues that the governor can go out and recruit top-quality judges, be proactive instead of waiting for names to be sent to him. He cites the federal system as the model for his amendment, in which the president picks federal judges and they are confirmed by the U.S. Senate.