Knoxville attorney Herb Moncier feels like he is being “slow walked” until the August election so that his lawsuit becomes moot. Moncier is trying to get on the ballot for an appeals court judge position, which under current law is filled by gubernatorial appointment. Moncier argues that the state constitution calls for the election of judges and his inability to get on the ballot is an “undue burden” for seeking political office.
Moncier had a hearing before U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan last week; the state attorney general’s office asked the court to await a ruling in state courts before taking up the matter. Varlan took the motion under advisement. In the court of Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly, where Moncier has also filed, the state attorney general’s office has argued that Wimberly should wait until a special state Supreme Court rules on the matter.
Last summer, the special Supreme Court heard arguments on whether appeals-court judges should be elected, but no ruling has been forthcoming. So no ruling from the Supreme Court, no ruling from the Circuit Court awaiting a decision, and thus no ruling likely from federal court.
Moncier said the governor, the Legislature, and the judiciary are “moving in lock step” to prevent anything from happening before retention elections in August on keeping current appeals-court judges. After that date, a constitutional amendment will be voted on in November to legitimize appointing judges, rendering the issue moot.