Plans to strip Tennessee Supreme Court of power to appoint state attorney general up for hearing today

February 19th, 2014 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

Tennessee stands alone in the way it selects its attorney general. Other AGs are elected statewide, or appointed by the governor (with or without legislative confirmation) or simply picked by the legislature outright (Maine). Tennessee’s constitution, however provides that “An Attorney General and Reporter for the State, shall be appointed by the Judges of the Supreme Court.”

Since 1997 over 2 dozen bills have been introduced to remove the supreme court’s power and provide for a statewide election or in some cases appointment by the legislature.

The 2013/2014 iteration of the popular election idea (SJR 123) was rejected by the full Senate 14-15 (22 votes required) on February 5. Meanwhile appointment by general assembly (SJR 196) which passed the Senate in April 2013 on a 22-9 vote, is up for a hearing today before a House Civil Justice subcommittee.

List of recent bills and how they fared below the fold

Direct election
HJR 69 of 2011 Died in committee

SJR 20 of 2011 Died in committee

SJR 23 of 2011  Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee 5-4.

SJR 37 of 2011  Also required popular election of Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State. Rejected 0-6 in Senate Judiciary Committee.

SJR 38 of 2011 Died in committee

HJR 103 of 2013 Rejected by House Civil Justice Subcommittee on voice vote.

SJR 123 of 2013 Senate failed to reach 2/3rds majority, vote failed 15-14 (22 needed)

Legislative appointment
HJR 804 of 2011 Approved by House Judiciary Committee on voice vote. Died in House Finance Committee.

SJR 196 of 2013  Approved by full Senate 22-9. In House Civil Justice Committee.

Gubenatorial appointment with confirmation
SJR 145 of 2011 (Senate confirmation) Died in committee

SJR 693 of 2011 (House and Senate confirmation) Senate failed to reach 2/3rds majority, vote failed 16-15-2 (22 needed)

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