Over the summer, the Tennessee legislature declined to renew the state’s judicial nominating commission, which was used to recommend well-qualified candidates for appellate judgeships to the governor. Instead, lawmakers chose to let Tennesseans weigh in on the issue in 2014, when voters will be asked whether a modified federal process—gubernatorial appointment, legislative confirmation, and retention elections—should be used to select appellate judges.
The judicial selection process appeared to be in limbo in the interim, but Republican Governor Bill Haslam has acted to fill the gap, creating a screening panel by executive order. The new Commission on Judicial Selection will have 17 members, the same number of members as the expired commission, and 11 previous members who still had time left in their terms will serve on the new panel. Haslam will choose the remaining six members with input from legislative leaders. Opponents of this process argue that the state constitution requires that judges be elected by voters, but courts have rejected numerous legal challenges on these grounds over the years.