New super-chancery court would be appointed by governor, take over cases … against governor

Senators reach to their voting buttons during a floor session on March 16, 2020. Seated from left are Republican Sens. Mark Pody of Lebanon, Paul Rose of Covington, Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, and Paul Bailey of Sparta. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest version of the Republican effort to create a statewide chancery court with jurisdiction over constitutional challenges would allow all pending cases to be transferred to the new panel upon the motion of the Attorney General. The initial three members of the court would be appointed by Gov. Bill Lee, who is usually named as the defendant in lawsuits challenging new laws and executive orders.

The governor would select three chancellors — one from each Grand Division — from lists of finalists chosen by the Trial Court Vacancy Commission, which is entirely made up of appointees of the House and Senate speakers. The appointed chancellors would serve until the
August 2022 elections for the next eight-year judicial terms. At that point, the three chancellors would be elected via a statewide popular vote, a process unseen since the state adopted the Tennessee Plan for yes-no retention elections in the 1990s (which was overwhelmingly affirmed in a 2014 constitutional amendment.)

Tennessee currently has only three offices elected statewide: the governor and two U.S. senators. The old Public Service Commission used to be popularly elected — current state Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) was among the last members until then-Gov. Don Sundquist replaced it with the appointed Tennessee Regulatory Authority in 1996.

Here’s the (UPDATED) amendment proposed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville):


SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 16, Chapter 11, is amended by adding the following as a new part:

16-11-301.

There is created and established a court of original jurisdiction in this state to be designated and styled the statewide chancery court.

16-11-302.

(a) The statewide chancery court shall be composed of three (3) chancellors, of whom no more than one (1) shall reside in each grand division of the state.

(b) The chancellors of the statewide chancery court shall be appointed and elected in the manner provided by § 17-1-103(b) and title 17, chapter 4, part 3; provided, however, that the judicial district for each chancellor is the state of Tennessee and each chancellor must be elected in a statewide election. Candidates for statewide chancery court must file an original nominating petition, pursuant to § 2-5-103.

(c) The governor shall appoint three (3) persons to serve as chancellors of the statewide chancery court, and each person so appointed shall serve in that capacity until September 1, 2022, or until the person’s successor is elected and qualified. At the August 2022 general election, and every eight (8) years thereafter, the qualified voters of the state shall elect three (3) chancellors for a full eight-year term.

(d) The initial terms of the chancellors shall begin on October 1, 2021.

(a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the statewide chancery court has exclusive original jurisdiction over any civil cause of action that meets each of the following criteria:

(1) Challenges the constitutionality or validity of:

(A) A state statute, including a statute that apportions or redistricts state legislative or congressional districts;

(B) An executive order; or

(C) An administrative rule or regulation;

(2) Includes a claim for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief; and
(3)

(A) Is brought against the state or a state department, agency, or official acting in their official capacity; or

(B) In which the attorney general intervenes on behalf of the state, pursuant to § 29-14-107(b), and requests that the issue of constitutionality or validity be certified to the statewide chancery court. The court from which an issue is certified, pursuant to this subdivision (a)(3)(B), shall maintain jurisdiction over the remainder of the case and shall enter a stay in proceedings until the statewide chancery court has ruled on the issue certified.

(b) The statewide chancery court has the same powers and privileges that any chancery court has pursuant to § 16-11-101, except that the court’s jurisdiction is limited as provided in subsection (a).

(c) Except as provided in § 16-11-305(c), the court of appeals shall have jurisdiction of appeals from the decisions of the statewide chancery court. Notice of such appeal must be filed with the court of appeals.

16-11-304.

(a) The statewide chancery court shall sit in the supreme court buildings in Knoxville, Nashville, and Jackson, unless a location is otherwise designated by the supreme court, and shall hear, try, and dispose of the action as a three-judge panel.

(b) In the event of a disagreement among the chancellors, the opinion of the majority prevails.

(c) If a chancellor is recused from a case before the court or is otherwise temporarily unable to serve, then the supreme court shall appoint as a replacement another elected trial court judge with civil jurisdiction who is from the same grand division as the chancellor being replaced and who shall serve by interchange, as provided in Rules 10B and 11 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules.

(d) At the first meeting of the court after the initial appointments and subsequent regular judicial elections, the members of the court shall choose the presiding judge of the statewide chancery court.

(e) The clerk and master of the statewide chancery court must be appointed by the chancellors and shall serve as provided in title 18, chapter 5.

(f) The rules promulgated by the supreme court shall govern the practice and procedure in the statewide chancery court, including certification of questions to the statewide chancery court and the transfer of cases to and from the statewide chancery court.

16-11-305.

(a) Pursuant to Article II, Sections 4, 5, and 6 of the Constitution of Tennessee, which vest the power of apportionment with the general assembly, the statewide chancery court shall not impose a substitute plan for a plan enacted by the general assembly apportioning or redistricting state legislative or congressional districts under this part unless the court first gives the general assembly a period of time to remedy any defects identified by the court in the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The period of time given must not be less than fifteen (15) calendar days from the issuance of the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, and in setting the period of time, the court shall consider whether the general assembly is currently in session or out of session.

(b) If the general assembly does not enact a new plan within the period of time set by the court pursuant to subsection (a), then the court may impose an interim districting plan for use only in the next election cycle, provided the interim districting plan differs from the districting plan enacted by the general assembly only to the extent necessary to remedy any defects identified by the court.

(c) A party in an action challenging a statute that apportions or redistricts state legislative or congressional districts that is dissatisfied with the final judgment of the statewide chancery court may appeal to the supreme court, as a matter of right, within thirty (30) days from the entry of the judgment of the statewide chancery court. The record on appeal must conform to the requirements of Rule 24 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 4-5-223(a)(1), is amended by deleting the language “chancery court of Davidson County” and substituting “statewide chancery court”.

SECTION 3. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 4-5-225(a), is amended by deleting the language “chancery court of Davidson County” and substituting “statewide chancery court”.

SECTION 4. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 17-1-103(b), is amended by redesignating the subsection as subdivision (b)(1) and adding the following subdivision (b)(2):

(2) Each of the three (3) elections for chancellor of the statewide chancery court must be won by the person from the appropriate grand division that receives the highest number of votes.

SECTION 5. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-13-202, is amended by designating the existing language as subsection (a) and adding the following as subsection (b):

(b) Statewide political parties shall nominate their candidates for the statewide chancery court by vote of the members of the party in a May primary election, or in the presidential preference primary, whichever is applicable.

SECTION 6. Any case for which the statewide chancery court has jurisdiction that is pending on October 1, 2021, must be transferred to the statewide chancery court, upon motion by the attorney general.

SECTION 7. For the purpose of appointing the initial chancellors of the statewide chancery court, this act takes effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it. For all other purposes, this act takes effect October 1, 2021, the public welfare requiring it.

27 Responses to New super-chancery court would be appointed by governor, take over cases … against governor

  • Avatar
    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    We need a device to get lawsuits challenging state laws, executive orders and redistricting out of the courts in a liberal ghetto like Nashville that is so unrepresentative of the vast majority of this state. With judges having so much sway over how Americans are governed we might as well elect them so we can at least have a direct voice in what has become the most important branch of government. I know, it was never intended to be this way and it probably shouldn’t be but in the age of hyper-activist leftist judges the people should have some recourse and if it has to be elections, so be it.

    • Avatar
      Taxpayer #314 says:

      Trump and the Conservatives are the ones that packed the courts with judges that had never been in court before.

  • Avatar
    Chris Norris says:

    Our sad legislature is further to the right than our general population. This bill was prompted when the Nashville Chancery Court stymied actions to suppress votes by our right-wing Secretary of State during the 2020 Presidential election amidst the pandemic. In this bill, the GOP super-majority seeks to create a court friendlier to voter suppression and other unconstitutional legislation and games.
    It’s already harder to vote in TN than most states. The TN GOP wants to keep it that way.

    • Avatar
      Mark Norris says:

      That’s silly. You obviously haven’t been out of Memphis or Nashville in a decade. The legislature is much more liberal leaning than most Tennessean’s.

      • Avatar
        Chris Norris says:

        That’s not my experience nor my observation. And yes, I have traveled widely across the state, and to other states and countries. We can disagree without put-downs, sir.

    • Avatar
      Beatrice Shaw says:

      why are right wing supremacists and insurrectionists even ALLOWD IN government? I heard more than one elected official was in DC on Jan 6…….a true day that will live in infamy.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        “Right-wing supremacists” that’s a new one Beatrice. I kinda like it.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        As for “insurrectionists” I understand your outrage Beatrice with Maxine Waters being Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee but as long as Pelosi defends her, what are you going to do?

        • Avatar
          Taxpayer #314 says:

          Oh how quick you are to swing the pendulum back to a diversion, Stuart. Jan 6 will be in all history books, and that “insurrection” was inspired and supported by the Golfer and Gofer himself. You are always so quick to pick up and spout the latest conservative crap from the Fox TV talking heads.

        • Avatar
          MARLE says:

          Trump defended the practice of looting and vandalizing innocent shopkeepers when he routinely applauded the practice in Hong Kong as rioters showed their displeasure for Gov attacking non-government businesses.

          What’s different here? One is Maxine Waters who Candice Owens, Tucker etc called out while saying nothing as Trump set the standard for how protests should plunder the innocent.

          • Avatar
            Eddie White says:

            TDS

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            How stupid, Eddie. If the Conservative Right is going to complain when politicians don’t condemn violence aimed at the innocent in protests against government then let’s ask Why they didn’t condemn it when Trump called for the exact same thing.

            When the TRUTH is presented and you have no factual rebuttal then just chalk it up to some stupid alphabet soup. How lame. Don’t be as lame as Stuart when it comes to dodging the Truth and Facts. That is not a winning hand.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Yes MARLE, I for one wish Eddie wouldn’t do anything to discourage you from being perhaps the only one of any political persuasion anywhere in the world to question conservatives’ credentials for condemning the pillaging and looting of the left because Trump didn’t condemn the pillaging and looting in Hong Kong. It certainly makes you unique and we can all say we sort of correspond with you which gives the rest of us a certain distinction as well.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Indeed Beatrice, one of the things that made the day so infamous was the information released by the Capitol Police shortly thereafter that Officer Sicknick died of blunt force trauma and the leftist mainstream media expanding on that information to tell us that it was Trump “insurrectionists” who bashed Sicknick’s head in with a fire extinguisher. Officials then kept the pathologist’s report secret for months to allow leftists to rant and rave about the “insurrection” that caused the death of this poor police officer until the “drive buy media” went on to other things in Minnesota. It was only then, when the leftist narrative had done its job did the DC government quietly release the report to the effect that Sicknick died of two strokes and had no injury on his body.

        We are living in a country where over half the country no longer trusts its institutions and the rest either want to destroy those institutions or sympathize with those who do. How does it feel to live in a country in accelerating decline?

        • Avatar
          Taxpayer #314 says:

          Cherry Picking one example from thousands that were there Stuart. Medical diagnosis (especially cause of death) change quite often when you have mass casualties but it is one tactic of yours that you use frequently to make your conservative “points.” More and more people every day don’t trust the conservatives and/or the republicans because they constantly twist the truth until it fits their narrative and if that doesn’t work, they start in with the outright lies and diversions. It is getting quite old.

    • Avatar
      Eddie White says:

      It is interesting you state that the legislature is far more to the right than the general population. I believe these are elected officials that are elected and sent to Nashville by the general population. What is true is that the legislature is far to the right of you.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    The solution is to follow the constitution.
    Executive departments and judicial department and secretaries have no constitutional authority to write laws.
    The legislature should impeach and legislate, won’t be no trouble that way.

    • Avatar
      Chris Norris says:

      Courts are empowered and authorized to determine the constitutionality of legislative and executive enactments. It’s called separation of powers. Dictatorships may be more efficient but they are unconstitutional.

  • Avatar
    David Collins says:

    It defies all logic! Representative Rudd, the idiot from Rutherford County, got all fired up (allegedly after reading a email from the election coordinator) over Chancellor Hobbs ruling regarding absentee voting rules in the 2020 election and comes up with this cockamamie legislation. Ignoring the fact that the State Supreme Court reversed the Chancellor’s order. In other words, the system worked–it ain’t broken–so why is this fool trying to fix it. Contrary to what Stuart and others like him think, a good trial judge is like an umpire at a baseball game. They “call them as they see them” according to the law. However, unlike the umpire’s call, the trial judge calls can be appealed–twice! And if the original call was incorrect, it can be rectified at the appellate level. This legislation is not necessary, not needed, and will be a waste of taxpayer money. And as far as so-called Conservatives are concerned, I guess this means y’all have abandoned all that “shrink the size of government” BS you’ve been spouting for years, because this bill would ADD to the size of government–not shrink it.

  • Avatar
    steve cates says:

    What happened to all that republican clamoring about “too much regulation”?

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      No reason to clamor about “too much regulation” when a new chancery court is being created steve. See, courts don’t issue regulations, they issue decisions. Hope that answers your question.

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Stuart is so helpful in answering all the questions that nobody ever asked him?

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