On the November ballot, voters will be asked to pass a constitutional amendment giving up their right to vote for appellate court judges, including the Supreme Court. They are being asked to vote without getting the information they need for an informed choice.
Voters have a right to be confused about the amendment. The governor has been appointing appeals court judges and the Supreme Court for some time. The judges say that’s perfectly legal.
But just to be sure that, should someone finally rule that the state constitution requires that judges be elected by the qualified voters, they have this amendment to ratify what’s being done now. The constitution will then, as amended, make the illegal appointment process legal and take away the ability to vote forever.
The amendment adds a little fillip in that the Legislature will decide which of the governor’s appointments can be seated or not, likely based on their political views.
So not only will the judges be appointed, they will also be the lackeys and lapdogs of the Legislature instead of being an independent branch of government, equal to the governor and the Legislature. They will also be told to appoint a lapdog Republican attorney general who will do whatever the Legislature requires. Like filing frivolous and futile lawsuits against Obamacare, which the current AG has refused to do.
What has not been clear, and Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell owe voters an explanation, is what happens if the amendment fails?
Twice before the voters have rejected appointing judges. But the practice has continued.
If the governor and the speakers plan to ignore the election result if it turns down the amendment, the people have a right to know that in advance. They need to explain what they plan to do in the event of a voter rejection.
Will they continue to block legislation that restores people’s right to vote for judges?
They are not going to admit that, of course. But how can they ignore the results if the voters have said three times they don’t want to amend the constitution to allow appointments and take away the voting privilege?
So voters are being asked to ratify the practice of appointing justices and to turn control of the courts over to the Republican Super Majority.
What I find astounding is that the judicial system and attorneys in general are not up in arms about this state of affairs. It is much more important than whether the three Democrats on the state Supreme Court will be rejected in the August election.
All the voters can do is reject the amendment and see what happens. I know there are legislators who will attempt to restore voting should the amendment fail. The governing class is afraid to tell you that they will restore voting if the amendment fails because they know that will prompt voters to reject it out of hand.
You will note that Knox County is in the process of electing judges to the criminal, circuit, and chancery courts. Are we to assume that these excellent jurists are part of a corrupt system because they are elected by the people? And these local judges have more control and impact on the citizenry than the justices of the appeals courts.
The appointed justices have argued that if they have to run for office it will bring politics into play. You ain’t seen politics, gentlemen and ladies. Look at the current campaign against retaining the appointed justices. You can expect that all future campaigns will be of a similar nature. And just wait until the governor sends a nominee over to the Legislature for confirmation.
If you vote Yes on Amendment Two, you are giving up your right to vote and turning control of the courts over to the governor and the Legislature. If you vote No there is at least a chance that the independence of the state judiciary will be restored.
A final thought: I wonder how much Gov. Ray Blanton would have charged for a Supreme Court seat? More than a pardon or a liquor license?