Lawsuit Challenges Appointment of Three TN Appellate Judges

Serial litigant John Jay Hooker filed a lawsuit recently challenging the planned appointment of three candidates to succeed three appeals court judges who will retire August 31, 2014. Hooker claims that their planned appointment robs voters of the chance to elect the judges in the election on August 7, 2014.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Hooker argues that the “state Constitution requires that there be an election… They are unconstitutionally calling off an election.”

Hooker has filed lawsuits previously challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s judicial selection method (see Gavel Grab).

Given the language of the Tennessee Constitution and statutes governing the Judicial Nominating Commission, Hooker’s lawsuit seems to have slim chances of succeeding.

This year, the state Legislature failed to extend the life of the Judicial Nominating Commission which submits names to Gov. Bill Haslam for confirmation to the bench. The commission will expire after June 30.

The governor can currently appoint a judge to a vacancy when it becomes open. However, a Metro Pulse blog notes that it’s difficult to determine what constitutes a vacancy in the current situation.

Since the judges will not leave the bench until next year, the blog asks, can the commission still nominate candidates? Without something in place after the commission expires, selecting judges in Tennessee may become more complicated, it says.

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