Fewer Lawyers Writing Laws in Legislatorland

News Sentinel, May 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

Fewer Lawyers Writing Laws in Legislatorland


In an interview last week, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick remarked that the Legislature doesn't have enough lawyers these days.

"We need more attorneys in the House of Representatives. We need more attorneys in our (Republican) Caucus," he said.

McCormick's comment came while talking about state House races this year. He made it in saying he supports Rep. Linda Elam, a lawyer, over former state Rep. Susan Lynn, a nonlawyer, in this summer's Republican primary clash between the two.

Coincidentally, a fundraising solicitation sent out the same day by Phillip North, a Democratic lawyer who is running for the state Senate in Nashville, made a similar point.

"Out of the 132 members of our Tennessee Legislature (99 representatives and 33 senators), only 17 are practicing attorneys. In the Senate, four of our attorney senators will be retiring. Three are up for re-election in contested races. In the House, three are up for re-election.

"By the time Tennesseans vote in November, the number of attorney legislators could be as little as four in the Senate and three in the House," wrote North, suggesting this would not be good though "I know you have concerns beyond the legal profession and so do I."

So there you have it: Bipartisan concern that we're short of lawyers in Legislatorland. (Disclosure: I am a licensed lawyer, though I never practiced law seriously and years ago took "inactive status," which may be considered an acknowledgment that I am incompetent as an attorney and which also gets me out of having to pay all the fees real lawyers pay.) Lack of lawyers was certainly not the case in the past. Skimming lists of General Assembly members from a century or so ago, it appears that close to half of our citizen legislators were lawyers. A quick review of the 97th General Assembly membership shows at least 26 lawyers - 13 in the Senate and 13 in the House.

More importantly, the committees that control bills dealing with the legal system were completely dominated by lawyers. Using the 97th as an example again, 10 of the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee were lawyers, while six of the nine members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were lawyers. …

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