Newspaper article News Sentinel

Ramsey Pushing Ahead in Effort to Oust Sitting Justices

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Ramsey Pushing Ahead in Effort to Oust Sitting Justices

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam says a campaign against three Supreme Court justices may "muddy the waters" in a separate vote on a state constitutional amendment while Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey disagrees.

"I have not talked to the governor about this but I cannot connect the dots on that one," Ramsey told reporters Thursday when asked about Haslam's comments a day earlier.

Both men support a proposed amendment to the state constitution that will be on the November ballot. It is intended to validate the current system for selection of Tennessee's top judges, which calls for the governor to make the initial appointment and voters to decide later whether a given judge gets a new term in a yes-no "retention election."

Before the November vote on the amendment, however, voters will decide on Aug. 7 whether to grant new terms to appellate court judges now in office, including three Supreme Court justices appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. Ramsey is calling for defeat of the three justices -- Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.

Haslam said a day earlier that Ramsey "has the full right" to oppose the justices, but "it's just not something I'm going to be taking part in."

"The whole issue of how we select judges is fairly confusing to anybody anyway, and is what Amendment 2 is about," Haslam said. "One of my main concerns is that we not muddy the waters for Amendment 2 in November. That's our job, to hopefully get that message clear."

Ramsey said Thursday that he believes that a having a "true election" in August with campaigns for and against the sitting justices "legitimizes the retention election process and, in my opinion, in the end, will actually help the amendment pass, not hurt the amendment."

Many attorneys, including some Republicans, support the incumbent justices, noting they were all recommended for new terms by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC), whose members were appointed by Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. …

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