As more states try to require their judges be lawyers, Tennessee may move in opposite direction

February 19th, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

In the last several years, various states have moved away from the practice of allowing judges to be non-attorneys. Georgia, for example, in 2011 required all newly appointed or elected Municipal Court judges to be attorneys. In 2011 and 2012 Maryland’s voters approved constitutional amendments requiring at least some of their Orphan’s Courts have attorney-judges.

Tennessee’s HB 1320 and SB 1230 move in precisely in the opposite direction.

Existing laws require the judges of all the state’s courts be attorneys (judges serving prior to 1990 in some courts without a law license can continue to serve). HB 1320 / SB 1230 would provide that effective September 2013 the requirements would be repealed.

At the same time at least 4 states are considering requiring their judges be lawyers:

Indiana SB 295: City and Town Courts

Mississippi HB 633: Municipal Court

Montana HB 467: Justice of the Peace Courts that are courts of record

New Mexico HB 119: Metropolitan Courts

New Mexico SB 237: Probate Courts in counties with a population over 500,000