Apr 11 2012
The Knoxville News Sentinel has endorsed a plan that would preserve Tennessee’s system of judicial Merit Selection by amending the state’s constitution to reconcile its language with the system. Tennessee’s Merit Selection system has been in place for decades. Since the state constitution provides that its Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by… voters”, the system’s constitutionality has rested on the argument that retention elections meet this requirement. As challenges to this argument and alternative judicial selection proposals occasionally arise, the state’s Governor, Lt. Governor, and House Speaker have all called for a constitutional amendment that would lend “clarity” to the debate.
The News Sentinel wonders, “why not confirm by constitutional amendment the current system that has proven to be workable?” The piece adds that “[p]opular election of the state’s judiciary is fraught with danger…” since “a popular vote… gives [justices] some burdensome obligations to special interests that have far too much influence in elections.” The editorial then elaborates that “justices must consider the law before them, not the special interests that bankrolled their election.” Finally, the state’s Lt. Governor bluntly clarifies that “we don’t want Supreme Court justices running for office.” We agree that a judge’s proper role is that of an unbiased arbiter, and not that of a politician focused on currying favor with voters.