chancery court

Read the Democratic lawsuit seeking to halt the GOP’s redistricting plan

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Tenenssee Democrats seeks to to halt the Republican redistricting plan for state House and Senate.

“From the very beginning, we doubted that the Tennessee redistricting process would be open and fair,” said state Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus. Unfortunately, Republicans also violated the law while gerrymandering our state. We’re proud to be supporting these individuals in their efforts to ensure equal representation for every Tennessean.”

Read the complaint here:

IN THE CHANCERY COURT OF TENNESSEE FOR THE TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

AKILAH MOORE, TELISE TURNER, and GARY WYGANT v.

BILL LEE, Governor, TRE HARGETT, Secretary of State, MARK GOINS, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections; all in their official capacity only)

COMPLAINT

Over the course of approximately two weeks in January 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly engaged in an unprecedented reapportionment of voters, redrawing state House and Senate maps to ensure maximum partisan advantage for the incumbent Republican supermajority. Redistricting decisions were made largely out of view of the public and largely without input from representatives of the minority party. These one-sided decisions denied voters any real opportunity to participate in – much less stop – fundamental changes to the process through which Tennessee voters choose their elected representatives.

Crucially for purposes of this lawsuit, the Tennessee General Assembly supermajority and Governor Bill Lee ignored the plain, unambiguous text of the Tennessee Constitution in order to enact their partisan redistricting scheme. They did so in two ways: first, by dividing more counties than necessary to create House districts with roughly equal populations, and second, by numbering state senatorial districts nonconsecutively. These actions both contravene the language of the Tennessee Constitution.

Regardless of the supermajority’s motives, the Tennessee General Assembly’s and Governor’s redistricting maps are facially unconstitutional according to the text of our state’s founding document. The above-named Plaintiffs – on behalf of all voters of Tennessee – file this action seeking a swift declaration and injunction requiring that the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor immediately adopt maps that conform with the Tennessee Constitution.

INTRODUCTION

1. This lawsuit challenges the Tennessee General Assembly’s recent reapportionment of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate for violating two provisions of the Tennessee Constitution.

2. First, the legislature’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives divides more counties than necessary to ensure that all districts have roughly equal populations.

3. Second, the legislature’s reapportionment of the Senate fails to consecutively number the four senatorial districts included in Davidson County.

4. County Divisions: The Tennessee Constitution prohibits legislators from dividing individual counties when creating multi-county legislative districts, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution requires the creation of legislative districts with roughly equal populations. The Tennessee Supreme Court has reconciled these two provisions by holding that the General Assembly must create as few county-dividing districts as is necessary to ensure that all legislative districts contain roughly equal populations.

5. The General Assembly’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives violates this constitutional mandate by creating significantly more county-dividing House districts than necessary to maintain districts with roughly equal populations. The newly-enacted House apportionment plan crosses 30 county lines, despite the fact that significantly fewer county divisions could have been achieved while also maintaining roughly equal populations in each district. The legislative history illustrates this constitutional violation, as one alternate map submitted to the legislature contained just 23 county divisions, while also achieving closer population parity than the plan that the General Assembly approved. The General Assembly’s failure to reduce county divisions in its House plan violates the Tennessee Constitution.

6. Senate District Numbering: When a single county contains more than one senatorial district, the Tennessee Constitution requires the districts in that county to be numbered consecutively. This requirement ensures that half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in presidential election years and half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in gubernatorial election years, given that even-numbered districts are on the ballot in presidential election years and odd-numbered districts are on the ballot in gubernatorial election years.

7. The General Assembly’s new Senate map creates four senatorial districts within Davidson County, including three districts that are entirely within Davidson County and a fourth district that includes a portion of Davidson County along with all of Wilson County. The General Assembly numbered these districts 17, 19, 20, and 21, ensuring that three districts will be on the ballot during gubernatorial elections and just one district will be on the ballot during presidential elections. Before enacting this map, an amendment was proposed that would have corrected this deficiency by properly numbering Davidson County’s senatorial districts. The General Assembly rejected this amendment.

8. The General Assembly’s Senate apportionment map violates the Tennessee Constitution’s express requirement that senatorial “districts shall be numbered consecutively” in counties having more than one senatorial district. Tenn. Const. art. II, Sec. 3.

9. These constitutional violations can be, and should be, corrected before the August 2022 legislative primary elections. This Court should provide the General Assembly with fifteen days to enact new apportionment plans that correct these violations, as required by T.C.A. § 20- 18-105(a). If the General Assembly fails to enact such new maps by the Court’s deadline, the Court should then “impose an interim districting plan,” as authorized by T.C.A. § 20-18-105(b). Such interim districting plan would only apply to the 2022 legislative election cycle. Id.

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New edition alert: Lee order snubbed, GOP introduces fees to run, 3-judge panels named

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

In this week’s print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

— Big school districts ignore Lee’s executive order for opting out of masks

— That’ll cost you: State GOP approves fee schedule for candidates, bona fide updates.

— Money matters: Tennessee ends budget year with $2.96B surplus in its general fund.

— A three-judge tour: Supreme Court names first three-judge panels, two headed by Lyle.

— Also: Lee gets the Trump endorsement, Harshbarger late on stock disclosures, Haslam and Sundquist as new radicals, and was Fiscus barking up the wrong tree with her muzzle complaints?

Access the your TNJ copy here or subscribe here.

Partisan statewide chancery court idea dropped in House, replaced by new appeals court

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A Senate proposal to create a statewide chancery court made up of three judges elected in statewide partisan elections has been dropped in the House. Instead, the lower chamber wants to create a new “court of special appeals,” made up of three new judges who would stand for yes-no retention elections.

The new panel could take up case in which the attorney general intervenes on behalf of the state, and it would be the court of original jurisdiction for any challenges of redistricting plans.

Former lawmakers or governors would not be eligible to serve on the new intermediate court of appeals. Members would be appointed by the governor, though nominees would have to be confirmed by a joint convention of the General Assembly.

Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) has been a main proponent of holding popular elections for a statewide chancery court. The conflicting versions of the court proposals could lead to the need for a conference committee to see if the two chambers can work out their differences.

Here’s the full House amendment sponsored by Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville):

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

16-7-101.

There is created and established an appellate court to be designated and styled the court of special appeals of Tennessee.

16-7-102.

(a) The court of special appeals is composed of three (3) judges, one (1) from each grand division of the state.

(b)

(1) Immediately preceding appointment, each Judge must be at least thirty (30) years of age, must have been a resident of the state for at least five (5) consecutive years, and must have been a resident of the grand division from which the judge is appointed for at least one (1) year. For purposes of this section, resident has the same meaning as defined in § 2-1-104. The judges must be duly licensed to practice law in this state.

(2) In order to ensure fairness, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and to avoid political bias, a former member of the general assembly or a former governor shall not serve as a judge of the court of special appeals.

(c) The governor shall appoint three (3) persons to serve as judges of the court of special appeals and vacancies on the court of special appeals must be filled by the governor. Each judge of the court of special appeals will be elected by the qualified voters of the state in a statewide retention election conducted in accordance with title 17, chapter 4, part 1. A judge of the court of special appeals must qualify as a candidate and be elected by the qualified voters of the state.

The initial terms of the judges begin on October 1, 2021. The oath of office for each judge of the court of special appeals must be filed and entered on the minutes of the court in the grand division from which the judge resides. The oath must likewise be filed and entered on the records in the office of the secretary of state at Nashville.

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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.

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Read the ruling unfreezing betting on the Action 24/7 sportsbook

Nashville Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal on Friday lifted the state Lottery’s suspension of sportsbook Action 24/7 due to fraudulent activity on its platform.

“We applaud the Court’s decision and look forward to working with state officials to ensure public safety and trust in our regulatory system while maintaining an environment for businesses to thrive in Tennessee,” Action 24/7 president Tina Hodges said in a statement. “Thank you to our loyal players and friends across the state for your confidence, support and encouragement. We’ll be Back in Action soon!”

The ruling sends the case back for further hearings before the Lottery.

“We will continue to work with Action 247 to implement appropriate minimum internal control standards that protect the public interest and minimize risk to the integrity of sports gaming in Tennessee,” Lottery spokesman David Smith said in a statement.

Here is the order for Chancellor Moskal:

ORDER ON TEMPORARY INJUNCTION

This matter came before the Court for hearing on March 24, 2021, by videoconference, on Plaintiff Tennessee Action 24/7, LLC’s (“Action 24/7”) Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction, seeking reinstatement of Plaintiffs sports gaming operator’s license temporarily suspended by Defendants Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation and members of its Board of Directors and President and CEO, in their official capacities (collectively, “TEL”). Participating in the hearing were Attorney E. Steele Clayton IV, Sarah B. Miller, and Nicholas J. Goldin, representing Action 24/7, and Assistant Attorney General Lindsay H. Sisco, Deputy Attorney General Justin Urban, and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Shirley, representing Defendants. Also attending were Tina Hodges, Action 24/7’s President, and Andrew Jack, Action 24/7’s Chief Operating Officer.

Action 24/7 filed a Verified Complaint, with exhibits, against Defendants on March 22, 2021, seeking judicial review of Defendants’ action indefinitely suspending Plaintiffs sports gaming operator’s license under Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-51-328. Plaintiff contemporaneously filed an Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction supported by a Memorandum of Law. The Court entered an Order setting the Motion for a temporary injunction hearing on March 24, 2021 at 2:00 p.m./central, pursuant to Rule 65.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and Davidson County Local Rules of Practice § 19.03. See March 22, 2021 Order. Defendants filed a response in opposition to the Motion, with exhibits, on March 24, 2021.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court makes the following preliminary findings of fact for purposes of the pending request for a temporary injunction, only, based upon the Court’s record at this early stage of the proceedings.

As of November 1, 2020, Tennessee residents are allowed to place online sports wagers under the recently enacted Tennessee Sports Gaming Act (the “Act”). Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-51- 301, et seq. Action 24/7 is licensed by the State of Tennessee ·as an online sports wagering business under the Act. The Act authorizes the Tennessee Education Lottery Board of Directors (the “TEL Board”) to enforce and supervise compliance with the provisions of the Act. Id.,§ 4-51-306. The Act au-thorizes the TEL Board to control the licensing of sports wagering operators in Tennessee. Id., § 4-51-317, -326. The Act also authorizes the TEL Board to promulgate rules in accordance with the Act. Id., § 4-51-306. Further, the TEL Board is authorized to “investigate and conduct a hearing with respect to a licensee” that has violated the Act, in accordance with rules adopted by the TEL Board. Id.,§ 4-51-326(a). Upon finding a violation of the Act or rule, the TEL Board may suspend, revoke or refuse to renew a license for violations.of any provision of the Act or rules
promulgated by the Board. Id., 4-51-326(b).

The Board promulgated rules and regulations under the Act, referred to as “Chapter 15 – Sports Gaming Rules, Regulations and Standards” (“Rules”). The Rules recognize a “Sports Wagering Committee” of the TEL Board. The Rules, in tum, authorize the Sports Wagering Committee to suspend, revoke, or not renew a license for any of the reasons set forth under the Act or the Rules, upon recommendation by the CEO. Rule 15.2.3.A. The Rules grant the Sports Wagering Committee the discretion to revoke, suspend or not renew a license when it determines it is “in the best interests of the TEL, its Board, or the public policy or welfare of the State of Tennessee,” after notice and a right to a hearing in accordance with the Act and the Rules. Rule 15.2.3.B. The Rules additionally authorize the Sports Wagering Committee, or its designee, to suspend a license upon “exigent circumstances without prior notice pending any prosecution, hearing or investigation.” Rule 15.2.3.B. The Rules do not describe or provide for the size or composition of the Sports Wagering Committee, and do not specifically define what constitutes “exigent circumstances.”

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