A Report on Reauthorization of the Tennessee Plan
February 25, 2008Brian T. Fitzpatrick
In June of 2008, some of the operative provisions of Tennessee’s method of selecting appellate judges—called the “Tennessee Plan”—will expire unless they are reauthorized by the Tennessee Legislature. Under the Tennessee Plan, judges are initially appointed by the Governor from a list of three names selected by a nominating commission made up primarily of lawyers who belong to special lawyer’s organizations. After a period of time, these judges then have their names put on the ballot in uncontested retention referenda where voters are asked whether to keep the judges appointed by the Governor. Ever since the Tennessee Plan was enacted to replace contested elections in 1971, it has been controversial, and, for much of its history, it has been mired in litigation. Indeed, just last year, the Governor was so unhappy with the work of the nominating commission that he brought a lawsuit against it that went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court.