So there's no Judicial Nominating Commission...what happens if someone retires?
"It makes for a complicated mess, although we're heard the distinct possibility that something will be done early in the next legislative session" said Tom Lawless, a Nashville lawyer who is chair of the soon-to-be-defunct Judicial Nominating Commission.
Lawless said that without legislative intervention, there is potentially 19 months of no mechanism of replacement of judges in Tennessee.
Tennessee's current method of selecting judges has been extremely controversial. It has especially rankled some conservatives who believe that all judges, even those who sit on the appellate courts, should face popular elections with opponents.
The governor has appointed replacement judges for the special Supreme Court. Three of the previous judges stepped back from the panel late last month after they were linked to a group that backs the Tennessee Plan.
The new special appointees join two previous appointees to make up a group of highly qualified and diverse legal minds representing the three grand divisions of the state. The governor’s new appointees are:
J. Robert Carter, Jr. is a criminal court judge in Shelby County, elected Judge of Division III in August 2010 after serving as an assistant district attorney general for 26 years before his election. Carter graduated magna cum laude from Christian Brothers College with bachelor’s degrees in English and Humanities. He received his J.D. from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphries School of Law.
James R. Dedrick retired in 2010 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office where he had served since 1993 as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He began his career with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1983 and was a federal prosecutor for drug, corruption, white collar, tax and other felony investigations and trials. He received his Bachelor of Science degree with honors from East Tennessee State University and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law with honors.
Monica N. Wharton serves as the chief legal counsel for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, overseeing the risk management and legal affairs department since 2008. Wharton previously worked at the law firm, Glankler Brown PLLC, practicing in the circuit, chancery and federal court systems. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, graduating with honors, and she earned her J.D. from William & Mary School of Law.
Special Justices William Barker, George Brown and Robert Echols have stepped away from the five-member Special Supreme Court to which Gov. Haslam appointed them five weeks ago. John Jay Hooker had filed a motion to disqualify the trio earlier this month. Check a PDF of today's order here.
The TN Report notes that some members of the governor's hand-picked Special Supreme Court have ties to a group that fights judicial election.
“I think it would have been nice if the governor maybe would have gone out of his way to choose somebody who didn’t have the appearance of bias. Not that those men are biased, but it leaves the appearances there because of their connections,” he said.