The State Supreme Court vacated a Hamilton County judge's finding that the state law capping damages was unconstitutional; however, the state's highest court did not rule on the constitutionality of the law itself.
In March, Hamilton County circuit court judge W. Neil Thomas III found that the state's 2011 law capping non-economic damages at $750,000 is a violation of the guarantee to a trial by jury. His opinion called on centuries of legal precedent (delightfully including the 1166 Assize of Clarendon) and shocked lawmakers.
This week, the Supreme Court found that since the question of damages never went to the jury — the appeal of Thomas' ruling was interlocutory and occurred as the trial proceeded — then the question of constitutionality wasn't ripe.
From the opinion (citations removed):
The same may be said with respect to the issue of the constitutionality of the statutory cap on non-economic damages in this case. The statutory cap on non-economic damages will have no relevance in this case unless and until Plaintiffs obtain a verdict in excess of that cap. Under the terms of the statute, the limitation on the amount of non-economic damages is not disclosed to the jury; the cap is only applied by the trial court after a plaintiff's verdict and an award of damages subject to and in excess of the cap.
("[T]he jury should make its award as if the statutory cap does not exist, and the jury's award should be based only on its determination of the allocation of fault in the case and its determination of the type and amount of damages."). Whether the cap is implicated in this case thus remains an open question, and the issue of the constitutionality of that cap is not ripe for determination at this time.
AG Herb Slatery quashed chatter that he's among the governor's top choices to replace state Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade:
“The State is facing an important decision, appointing and confirming someone to the Supreme Court position recently vacated by Judge Gary Wade. This will be the first appointment after the recently passed constitutional amendment dealing with judicial appointments.
I am sure the Governor and the General Assembly will make it a smooth process. There has been a fair amount of speculation not only about possible candidates, but also about how confirmation will work.
While my name has been mentioned in some of the conversations, a compliment that I really appreciate, I want to clarify that I do not intend to submit an application for the position.
The Court appointed me as Attorney General less than a year ago, to possibly take another position in a few months would be to leave a job unfinished. A number of people, talented people, have changed course in several ways to come and work with our office. Honoring that commitment to them and the other fine employees of this office is important to me. Changing directions in midstream and applying for another position feels like it is more about me than it should be at this point.
I am quite confident the Governor will appoint, and the General Assembly will confirm, the very best person to succeed Judge Wade. Those are big shoes to fill. Governor Haslam already has a good track record on appointing excellent judges. His decision here will not be any different.”
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade put in his last day on the job Tuesday, so now it's up to the Governor's Council for Judicial Appointments to find his replacement from the state's Eastern or Western grand divisions. Check out all the information on applications, which are due Oct. 12, here.
A release from Rep. Mike Stewart a few days after former Chief Justice Gary Wade said he'll retire in September:
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart issues the following response to reports that Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey intends to let partisan politics dictate the choice for the next Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“Until now, Tennessee Governors of both parties have picked Justices of our highest court based on merit, not politics. For example, in 2007 Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen selected Justice Bill Koch, who had earlier served as Legal Counsel to Republican Governor Lamar Alexander. In so doing, Governor Bredesen was following a long tradition of merit-based selection that has for decades made Tennessee Courts a model for non-partisan, fair-minded decision making.”
“Now Lieutenant Governor Ramsey has stated publicly that he wants to end all that, openly pushing for a ‘Republican Supreme Court majority’. Respectfully, the Lieutenant Governor’s position would be a wrong turn for our state. The Courts are not intended to be just another partisan arm of government. Our judges have an independent duty to uphold the laws passed by the peoples’ representatives – a duty that transcends the judges’ personal political beliefs. We have seen in Washington and in other states that infusing the judicial selection process with politics has led to charges of bias and in some cases even corruption - charges that have threatened to undermine the integrity of the judiciary. We don’t need that sort of thing here.”
“Tennesseans of both parties should oppose the Lieutenant Governor’s plan to turn the selection of our next Supreme Court justice into a Washington-style political circus; they should demand that our next Supreme Court Justice be selected on the basis of his or her qualifications and experience, not his or her ability to pass a political litmus test cooked up by Lieutenant Governor Ramsey.”
From AP, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the right to bail is not absolute.
The opinion stemmed from the Knoxville case of Latickia Burgins, who had bailed out of jail after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge and was later charged in connection with a violent carjacking.
“A defendant may forfeit her right to bail by subsequent criminal conduct,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee wrote in the opinion. “Before pretrial bail can be revoked, the defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing.”
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS