Tennessee legislators, in addition to considering a revamp of the state’s judicial discipline commission, may look at setting tougher rules governing when judges accused of a conflict of interest must step aside from hearing a case.
Gavel Grab has reported on Tea Party conservatives’ push for Tennessee legislators to take control over naming members of the discipline commission, called the Court of the Judiciary. Also under discussion, a Knoxville News Sentinel article said, are stricter recusal rules imposed by the legislature and repealing a law that permits reprimands of judges to be kept secret. Judges say the latter proposal would make bad policy.
Judicial recusal rules currently are set by the state Supreme Court. For the legislature to change them could violate the Tennessee constitution, said Chris Craft, presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary.
According to the article, the Tennessee Bar Association has proposed a revision of current rules that calls for an immediate, expedited appeal of a judge’s refusal to recuse himself or herself. These appeals now can take months.
To learn about the need for robust recusal rules when campaign contributors appear before a judge, check out the JAS issues page on the topic or read a recent Chicago Tribune op-ed by JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg.