Gov. Haslam of Tennessee should exercise his authority under a 2009 amendment to judicial nomination law and appoint a judge himself when Justice Janice Holder retires in 2014. He should resist the trial bar’s attempt to insert itself into the nomination process. Collin Levy explains why at The Wall Street Journal.
In February, the state approved a constitutional amendment to end Tennessee’s use of the Missouri Plan for selecting state judges in favor of using the federal model in which the governor’s nominees would be confirmed by the legislature. That plan must be approved by voters in 2014. At the end of June, lawmakers allowed the Missouri Plan’s judicial nominating commission to expire, consistent with the state’s intention to move to a federal model.
But with a vacancy looming on the state Supreme Court—Justice Janice Holder is retiring in August 2014—Democrats and trial lawyers are claiming the lack of a commission leaves the state without any way to fill her seat. Hence, they’re angling to get the Missouri Plan reinstated on a “temporary” basis.
The hope is that a temporary reinstatement of the plan would derail the momentum for ending it altogether, but the manufactured vacancy crisis may have no grounding in state law. Under the Missouri Plan, a judicial nominating commission picks a slate of potential nominees for the governor anytime a vacancy arises on the bench. Until recently, the governor was powerless to act without the submission of a list of candidates from the commission.