judges

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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Former Nashville judge pleads guilty to corruption charges

Former Davidson County General Sessions Court Judges Casey Moreland pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges involving an attempted bribe and stealing from a program for recovering drug addicts, reports The Tennessean.

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Supreme Court chief thanks legislators for authorizing three new judges

Press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation this session funding three new judge positions in Tennessee. The new positions will be in the state’s 19th Judicial District, which serves Montgomery and Robertson counties; the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties; and the 21st Judicial District, which includes Hickman, Lewis, Perry, and Williamson counties.

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Retired TN Supreme Court Justice Frank Drowota dies, age 79

Frank F. Drowota III, who served 25 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court before retiring in 2006, has died at age 79.

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New indictment filed against ex Nashville judge

A federal grand jury has returned superseding indictment against Casey Moreland, a former Nashville judge, on charges including obstruction.

According to federal prosecutors, Moreland “took steps to obstruct and interfere with the investigation by directing the Drug Court Foundation’s director to destroy documents that would show the amount of cash that had been paid to the Foundation and ultimately stolen by Moreland.”

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New TN courtroom security standards include ‘panic button,’ bullet proofing

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference have adopted new minimum courtroom security standards to promote the security and safety of the members of the judiciary, court personnel, and the public. The standards were last updated in the 1990s.

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U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer, former state senator, announces retirement

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer, a former Republican state senator, has announced his retirement from the bench effective June 30, reports the Greeneville Sun.  He’ll take “senior status,” meaning Greer may still be appointed to hear selected cases after stepping down from fulltime duties.

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Disgraced former Judge Richard Baumgartner found dead

Richard Baumgartner, who served 19 years as Knox County Criminal Court judge before resigning in disgrace amidst a drug scandal, died Tuesday at the age of 70, reports the News Sentinel.

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Norris voices doubts about being confirmed as U.S. District Court judge

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris says he will stay in his current elective position until the U.S. Senate actually confirms his nomination as U.S. District Judge for West Tennessee – and he’s not really certain that’s going to happen, reports The Tennessean.

“I don’t trust the United States Senate to follow through on this,” he said during a state Senate GOP caucus meeting. “I’m not going to resign the seat which my constituents have elected me or this leadership for which you elected me.”

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Senate confirms ‘Chip’ Campbell as federal judge for Middle TN

The U.S. Senate Tuesday voted 97-0 to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Nashville attorney William “Chip” Campbell as a U.S. District Court judge for Middle Tennessee. Confirmation of three other nominees for judicial post in Tennessee is still pending.

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