A Report on Tennessee Attorney General Selection
White Paper on Tennessee
February 8, 2011J. Ammon Smartt, Keith W. Randall
Under the Tennessee Constitution, attorneys general are selected by the justices of the Supreme Court of Tennessee for eight-year terms with no limit on term renewals. Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court, in turn, are selected by a version of the Missouri Plan known as the “Tennessee Plan,” which calls for the governor to fill vacancies on the court from a list of three judges submitted by a nominating commission composed primarily of lawyers. After a period of time, the justices on the court are subject to retention referenda where voters are asked whether to retain the justices. The Tennessee Plan has been amply debated by others, including Vanderbilt Law Professor Brian Fitzpatrick, but the effects of the Tennessee Plan on the attorney general of Tennessee have yet to be extensively explored. This paper seeks to explore the effects of both judicial selection generally, and the Tennessee Plan specifically, on the attorney general of Tennessee.