Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that he issued Executive Order No. 41 establishing the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, a group of 11 members that will recommend candidates to fill vacancies for Tennessee trial and appellate courts.
“This council will allow us to select men and women of the highest caliber to ensure a fair, impartial and independent judiciary,” Haslam said. “The people have spoken in approving the constitutional amendment, and Tennesseans can feel confident about our judiciary under this process.”
This action follows approval by Tennessee voters in the November 4, 2014 election of a constitutional amendment establishing a method for selecting judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court in Tennessee.
Constitutional Amendment No. 2 on the November 4, 2014 General Election Ballot read:
Shall Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentences and by substituting instead the following:
“Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state. Confirmation by default occurs if the Legislature fails to reject an appointee within sixty calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session. The Legislature is authorized to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out Sections two and three of this article.”
With the passage of the amendment to Article VI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, the method of selecting appellate judges for a full term or to fill a vacancy is by and at the discretion of the governor. The governor’s appellate court appointments must then be confirmed by the General Assembly, and thereafter elected in a retention election by the voters of the state.
The governor will appoint members of the newly created council. It will include three members each from the western, middle and eastern divisions of the state, and two at-large members.
After receiving notice that a trial or appellate court vacancy has occurred or is impending, and after a public hearing, the council will select three candidates that are most qualified to fill the vacancy and send those names to the governor as nominees for appointment. The governor will fill the vacancy by appointing a person from among the three nominated or require the council to submit a panel of three additional nominees.
The executive order supersedes and rescinds the previous executive order that established the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments. Terms for members of the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments ended on November 5, 2014.