herbert slatery

New TNJ edition alert: The Cameron Sexton interview

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), left, and Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) await the begin of the State of the State address on Jan 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— TNJ Interview: House Speaker Cameron Sexton reflects on recovering from ‘trauma’ of scandals in House, building trust with Senate, and his expectations about future relations with Gov. Bill Lee.

— No cakewalk for Joe Carr in Rutherford County?

— Federal judge shoots down Starbuck’s effort to be restored to GOP ballot in 5th District.

— AG’s office confirms 5th District ballots could be changed until next month, raising questions about why redistricting fixes couldn’t have been made in time.

Also: Speculation about attorney general successor kicks into overdrive, Brian Kelsey gets another delay for his federal campaign finance case, and Memphis’ Democratic mayor backs “truth in sentencing” law.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Slatery tells colleagues he won’t seek another term as Tennessee Attorney General

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has informed his staff he won’t seek a second eight-year term this fall, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

Slatery was the chief legal counsel to then-Gov. Bill Haslam when he was named attorney general in 2014. Tennessee is the only state where the state’s top lawyer is appointed by Supreme Court.

Slatery surprised observers last year by taking a vocal stand against a legislative effort to to insert state lawmakers into the selection process by giving them power to approve or reject the high court’s nominees. The constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), the General Assembly cleared all but the final hurdle to making it onto the ballot this year. But the measure failed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in March.

Speaking at Nashville Rotary in October, Slatery said the change would contribute to the attorney general becoming a “political office.” Lawmakers already have the power to turn back executive decisions via the simple majority needed to override gubernatorial vetoes, Slatery said, and now “they want to control this, too.”

UPDATE: Slatery spokeswoman Samantha Fisher confirms Slatery informed colleagues of plans to retire.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the note Slatery wrote to staff:

Hello Everybody,  I want you to know that after much thought, discussion, prayer and seeking of advice, I sent a letter to the Supreme Court today advising them that I do not plan on applying to be re-appointed.  I wish I could tell all of you in person, but there will be a better time for that and communicating my gratitude to you for helping us continue to build a fine AG Office.  You are a very special group of people.  It has been an honor to be the Attorney General and Reporter, one I could never fully describe.  Words just would not do it justice.  Some of you have seen a number of AG transitions (and I may need your coaching 😊) but I can assure you that come September 1 someone of the highest caliber will step into this role.  Our Court knows how to do this.  Until then let’s keep a steady hand on the wheel.  With great respect, Herbert

Celebration for ex-Haslam adviser hosted by Haslam at Haslam Center

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Bill Haslam is hosting a reception for state Attorney General Herbert Slatery, the former governor’s onetime legal adviser, at the Tennessee State Museum on Wednesday. The event celebrates an award Slatery has received from the National Association of Attorneys General. The museum building, incidentally, was recently named the Haslam Center.

Cohosting the event is Gif Thornton, a lobbyist and managing partner of the Adams & Reese law firm. He also chairs the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, which recently submitted a slate of three state Supreme Court finalists for Gov. Bill Lee to choose from.

Tennessee is the country’s only state where the attorney general is chosen by the Supreme Court. Slatery’s eight-year term is up this fall, but he has declined to say whether he will seek another appointment to the job.

Here’s the invite to the reception:

National attorneys general group names Slatery top AG

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The National Association of Attorneys General has presented Tennessee’s Herbert Slatery with its top award.

Here’s the release from the AG’s office:

NASHVILLE — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the nonpartisan national forum for America’s state and territory attorneys general, presented Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III with the Kelley-Wyman Award Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 in Washington, DC.

The Kelley-Wyman Award is NAAG’s most prestigious honor given annually to the attorney general who has done the most to advance the objectives of the Association. A bipartisan panel of attorneys general selects the recipient of the award annually.

In 2021, General Slatery led nationwide, bipartisan coalitions of attorneys general resulting in an historic $26 billion opioids settlement announced in July 2021, and is one of several attorneys general leading actions against tech platforms like Google and Facebook.

He also serves as Treasurer for the NAAG Mission Foundation and co-chair of NAAG’s Consumer Protection Committee with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. General Slatery previously served as chair of the Southern Region of Attorneys General, which stretches from Texas to Virginia.

“I’m honored to receive this award from my colleagues, and it was a complete surprise,” said General Slatery. “If you’re looking for bipartisan, effective cooperation on issues that affect Americans across the country, it’s happening at the state level among attorneys general. I’m proud of that.  We work together to solve problems common to our states, ‘together’ being the key word.  It is no secret an award at this level is a way of recognizing not just one person but a team of dedicated, hardworking attorneys and staff.  We have that in Tennessee, and it is my honor to work with them.  They make me look a lot better than I really deserve.”

Originally called the Wyman Memorial Award, it was renamed the Kelley-Wyman Award in recognition of the outstanding service and contributions of Frank Kelley, who served as attorney general of Michigan from January 1962 to January 1999. The award was instituted as a gift, made by former New Hampshire Attorney General Louis Wyman, in memory of his father. 

The only other Tennessee Attorney General to receive this award is Charles W. Burson in 1993.

6th Circuit restores Tennessee’s waiting period for abortions

Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions has been reinstated in an en banc decision by the 6th Circuit.

See a release from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office below:

Nashville- Today the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions is constitutional. The Court’s ruling reverses the district court’s decision in Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Slatery.

In its opinion, the Court recognized that, “before making life’s big decisions, it is often wise to take time to reflect. The people of Tennessee believed that having an abortion was one of those decisions. So they passed a law requiring a waiting period of 48 hours.”

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision is gratifying for several reasons,” said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. “First, the result: a law passed by our representative lawmakers and signed by the Governor five years ago—yes, five years ago—is constitutional. It has been on the books a long time. The Court concluded that, during this time, the 48-hour waiting period has not been a substantial obstacle to getting an abortion in Tennessee. Second, the opinion was a reasoned analysis of the law and the lack of proof offered by the plaintiffs, rather than a decision based on policy. Also, this ruling comes after the full Court reconsidered an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same Court.”

To read the ruling, click here:https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2021/pr21-26-opinion.pdf

Hargett signs letter opposing federal voting bill

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee’s Tre Hargett has signed onto a letter from from Republican secretaries of state opposing legislation in congress aiming to set national voting guidelines. The letter is written by John Merrill of Alabama and signed by 15 other top state election officials.

The letter comes as Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery has also joined Republican colleagues from other states in opposing the legislation.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and House Minority Leader McCarthy:

We are writing you today to urge you to reject the “For the People Act” otherwise known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, which is a dangerous overreach by the federal government into the administration of elections.

Each state legislature should have the freedom and flexibility to determine practices that best meet the needs of their respective states. A one-size-fits-all approach mandated by Congress is not the solution to any of our problems.

These bills intrude upon our constitutional rights, and further sacrifice the security and integrity of the elections process. We firmly believe the authority to legislate and regulate these changes should be left with the states.

H.R. 1 and S. 1 blatantly undermine the extensive work we, as election officials, have completed in order to provide safe, accessible voting options for our constituencies. Many of the proposed practices would reverse the years of progress that has been made. We are strongly opposed to these bills and hope you will dismiss efforts to advance this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter.

/SIGNED/

John H. Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State

Kevin Meyer
Alaska Lieutenant Governor

Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State

Connie Lawson
Indiana Secretary of State

Scott Schwab
Kansas Secretary of State

Michael Adams
Kentucky Secretary of State

Kyle Ardoin
Louisiana Secretary of State

Bob Evnen
Nebraska Secretary of State

Alvin A. Jaeger
North Dakota Secretary of State

Steve Barnett
South Dakota Secretary of State

Tre Hargett
Tennessee Secretary of State

Mac Warner
West Virginia Secretary of State

Ed Buchanan
Wyoming Secretary of State

Slatery signs onto GOP AGs’ letter criticizing congressional voting bill

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has signed on to a letter urging the defeat of a bill by congressional Democrats they say would “federalize state elections and impose burdensome costs and regulations on state and local officials.”

The letter is written by Indiana AG Todd Rokita and joined by 19 others including Slatery.

Here’s the full text (footnotes omitted):

Dear Madame Speaker, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell:

As the chief legal officers of our states, we write regarding H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021 (the “Act”) and any companion Senate bill. As introduced, the Act betrays several Constitutional deficiencies and alarming mandates that, if passed, would federalize state elections and impose burdensome costs and regulations on state and local officials. Under both the Elections Clause of Article I of the Constitution and the Electors Clause of Article II, States have principal—and with presidential elections, exclusive— responsibility to safeguard the manner of holding elections. The Act would invert that constitutional structure, commandeer state resources, confuse and muddle elections procedures, and erode faith in our elections and systems of governance. Accordingly, Members of Congress may wish to consider the Act’s constitutional vulnerabilities as well as the policy critiques of state officials.

First, the Act regulates “election for Federal office,” defined to include “election for the office of President or Vice President.”1 The Act therefore implicates the Electors Clause, which expressly affords “Each State” the power to “appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” the state’s

allotment of presidential electors, and separately affords Congress only the more limited power to “determine the Time of chusing the Electors.” That exclusive division of power for setting the “manner” and “time” of choosing presidential electors differs markedly from the collocated powers of the Article I Elections Clause, which says that both States and Congress have the power to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of congressional elections. That distinction is not an accident of drafting. After extensive debate, the Constitution’s Framers deliberately excluded Congress from deciding how presidential electors would be chosen in order to avoid presidential dependence on Congress for position and authority. Accordingly, the Supreme Court, in upholding a Michigan statute apportioning presidential electors by district, observed that the Electors Clause “convey[s] the broadest power of determination” and “leaves it to the [state] legislature exclusively to define the method” of appointment of electors. McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 27 (1892) (emphasis added). The exclusivity of state power to “define the method” of choosing presidential electors means that Congress may not force states to permit presidential voting by mail or curbside voting, for example.

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Vote on removal of Forrest bust delayed due to weather

Thursday was supposed to be the last chance for supporters and opponents of moving the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust out of the state Capitol to make their cases to the Tennessee Historical Commission. But the weather has intervened.

The panel decided to punt the discussion about the former Confederate general, slave trader, and early Ku Klux Klan leader until March 9. The delay could give Attorney General Herbert Slatery more time to decide whether to give a rare public legal opinion on whether Gov. Bill Lee’s administration skipped a step in the extensive process for changing or moving historical monuments.

While many were planning to attend the meeting via teleconference, an administrative law judge presiding over the hearing, attorneys, and witnesses were not able to make it to downtown Nashville due to treacherous road conditions, The Tennessean reported.

Slatery joins states’ legal effort to overturn presidential election

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is joining an amicus brief supporting a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the result of the presidential election to sway it in President Donald Trump’s favor.

“The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office has consistently taken the position that only a State’s legislature has the authority to make and change election laws,” Slatery said in a statement. “This Office pressed that argument in cases defending Tennessee’s election laws against pandemic-related challenges and in amicus briefs in cases involving similar challenges in other courts. This is not something new.”

Slatery’s office this year fought efforts to allow anyone afraid of contracting COVID-19 to cast absentee ballots. The state lost at the chancery court level, allowing the looser restrictions on mail-in balloting to take effect for the primary. The state Supreme Court later overturned the the decision, but only after the AG’s office reversed course to say anyone with an underlying health condition making them more susceptible to COVID-19 (or anyone living with someone who did) could cast absentee ballots.

A Trump-appointed federal judge also ruled Tennessee couldn’t enforce its rules this year requiring first-time voters who registered online to cast their ballots in person.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) called Slatery’s move a “low point in the history of the office of the Tennessee Attorney General. “

“Here’s the context: The Attorney General in Texas is under FBI investigation and widely assumed to be fishing for a pardon” Yarbro said on Twitter. “Now the Tennessee Attorney General is spending Tennessee resources to help?”

Renovated home of Attorney General’s office scorched by burning portable toilet

Scorch marks are seen on the John Sevier State Office Building in Nashville on Nov. 24, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The renovated building that is home to Attorney General Herbert Slatery and the protective detail of the Tennessee Highway Patrol suffered exterior damage this week when an outdoor portable toilet caught on fire.

Slatery and his staff had just returned to the John Sevier Building after a $54 million update of the facility that first opened in 1940.

Barriers erected by construction crews had just been removed from outside the building last week. Officials are investigating what caused the fire in the portable toilet. The THP’s move back into their space will be delayed because most of the damage was concentrated near their space.

The fire caused mostly superficial smoke and water damage, though some windows also appeared to have been broken. The damage is expected to be covered by insurance, so it won’t add to the renovation price tag.

A truck belonging to Gov. Bill Lee’s plumbing and HVAC company was staged outside the Sevier Building in the aftermath of the fire. The governor has said the Lee Co. would no longer do work for state government following his election in 2018. A spokeswoman said this week the company is not involved in state business.

A Lee Company truck is parked outside the John Sevier State Office Building on Nov. 24, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)