Legal Special Interests Fight for Their Privileges in Tennessee
July 12, 2012
Tennessee’s legal aristocracy must be getting worried. None other than Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, President of the American Bar Association, has weighed in against a proposed constitutional amendment to adopt what he calls a “radical new system” for selecting judges.
Under the reform proposal, Tennessee’s judges would be chosen by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. After eight years on the bench, judges would stand for retention election. In other words, the system Robinson finds so “radical” is the same one the Framers of the U.S. Constitution established for federal judges – with an added layer of public accountability thrown in.
Of course, the real reason Robinson and the rest of the legal pooh-bahs are so distressed is that Tennessee’s reform plan will weaken the power of the state bar and other legal special interests in the judicial selection process. Under the current “merit” selection system, lawyers dominate the nominating committee and force governors to pick only those judges who have the Tennessee Bar Stamp of Approval. The result is a highly politicized system ripe with cronyism, all of which takes places with no public oversight or accountability.
The truth is, in a democracy, a system where legal insiders push aside voters and their elected representatives to control the judicial selection process is far more “radical” than any reform being contemplated in Tennessee.