State Panel Reverses, Gives Two Appellate Judges Nod

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- A state panel that evaluates judges on Friday voted to recommend new terms for 22 appellate court judges, including two who had been recommended for rejection in a previous preliminary vote.

Court of Appeals Judge Andy Bennett and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Camille R. McMullen, the two judges who received negative recommendations earlier, both appeared before the nine-member Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission prior to the new vote to urge reconsideration.

Both appeared contrite, acknowledging that in their initial October interviews they had made mistakes in their presentations that left an impression they were not concerned with perceived shortcomings in performing their duties. Both gave a list of steps they have taken to address areas where they may need improvement.

"I have to be honest with the commission: I am an introvert," McMullen said at one point.

McMullen, the only black woman on Tennessee's appellate court bench, was faulted for taking too long in issuing opinions. In her previous interview, McMullen said, she had not mentioned that the death of a sister and staffing problems had impacted her work.

Further, McMullen passed out a chart showing that she has addressed the "timeliness problem." In 2009, the statistics showed, it took her an average of 237 days to issue an opinion. That has declined each year since and stood at 133 days in 2013, and a plan is in place to continue reducing the time, she said.

Bennett said he had been "very nervous" in his initial presentation and realizeds he may have come across as dismissive of any criticism.

"I tried to appear confident and apparently that went awry," he said. "I care about my work. If I'm not right, I want to know why... If I didn't make that clear in my prior interview, I apologize. …

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