GOP's Turn: Retention Vote is an Election? So Why Be Upset When it Gets Treated That Way?

Those of us who have argued that Supreme Court justices should be elected, as the state constitution requires, have been told that electing judges introduces politics and money into the process, corrupting our judicial system.

How is it then that war chests are being filled by both sides for the retention election scheduled for this August? Big money and politics being introduced into judicial races? Oh, the horror.

Advocates for appointed judges say the constitution doesn’t really mean what it says. Having a retention election for justices, after eight years in office, serves the requirement of the constitution.

How then are they horrified that the retention election in August is being treated like, well, an election? With people spending money to influence the outcome. It’s either an election or it’s not.

Republicans should drop the farce that the current three Supreme Court justices need to be turned out because of the decisions they’ve made. Let’s be honest. The Republicans have the governor’s office, the Legislature, and the state constitutional officers. Now they want to add a Republican attorney general who might be more amenable to their requests—like filing suit against Obamacare for instance.

It is perfectly understandable. The Democrats have controlled the Supreme Court and the appointment of the attorney general for 100 years. Just like they controlled the Legislature for most of that time. But those days are over for the present in Tennessee.

All of the effort expended by the Republicans in the Legislature, led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, to pass a constitutional amendment to “reconcile” appointed judges as opposed to that pesky constitutional phrase about the voters picking them will be for naught if the Republicans don’t unseat at least one of the current justices.

If all three Democrats are retained, they are on the court for another eight years. In eight years Haslam will be gone and it’s likely most of the Republican legislators pushing for change will be gone as well.

The three Democrats will have a majority on the five-person court and will again pick an attorney general. After a bruising campaign against them by Ramsey and his allies, it isn’t likely they will pick a Republican attorney general.

To suggest that we haven’t had politics involved in the court system in the past is laughable. I suppose it’s a coincidence that we’ve never had an attorney general who wasn’t a white male Democrat.

But given all the work the Republicans have put into restructuring the court system, even trying to pass a constitutional amendment, how could they not try and unseat the Democratic incumbents on the court?

The three sitting justices are, by all accounts, excellent jurists. You can always pick through cases and find something to argue about. I think it is a mistake to try and paint these justices as “soft on crime” or “anti-business.” If you want to oust them then just come clean. The Republicans are in charge and they want their own team at the court. Because the other team has had control for 100 years.

It is being suggested that the current justices are too concerned about legal niceties when it comes to executing prisoners. Given the case of Paul Gregory House, the Union County man who spent 22 years on death row until DNA evidence cleared him, don’t you want to have justices that are careful about who gets executed?

I firmly believe that while we have three good justices on the court at present, I also believe that there are three equally good Republican justices-in-waiting.

To suggest it is a gross miscarriage to turn them out seems to conveniently ignore your basic argument. People get turned out of office every election cycle, some of them good people, but the voters wanted a change. It’s how our democracy works.

As to the retention vote in August, are you now arguing that it isn’t an election?

© 2014 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.