Tennessee: Senate “Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Accountability” meets next week, may examine ethics complaint against chief justice and/or legality of composition of Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission

A specially appointed “Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Accountability” of the Tennessee Senate is scheduled to meet next Tuesday, June 24. While the notice fails to indicate the purpose of the meeting, it appears to be a legislative effort to investigate the state’s chief justice and/or the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

1) Chief Justice complaint: Senate Government Operations Chair and Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee Sen. Mike Bell filed an ethics complaint against Chief Justice Gary Wade. Per the Associated Press the complaint alleged the chief justice:

broke state rules last year by contacting members of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission on behalf of three appeals court judges under review. Wade has said his actions were proper, and the Board of Judicial Conduct, which investigates potential ethics violations, did not take up Bell’s grievance.

Bell had previously announced he intended on holding hearings in the month of June on the complaint and the dismissal by the Board of Judicial Conduct.

2) Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission: a state trial judge earlier this year ruled the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission makeup was illegal because it did not adhere to state diversity laws; the 9 member commission had only 2 female members. However no injunction was issued and the Commission continued to meet while the matter was/is on appeal. The House/Senate Government Operations Committee’s Judiciary and Government  subcommittee was directed to hold an interim session meeting to investigate the commission and it appears the Senate “Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Accountability” may do so at its June 24 meeting.

The Ad Hoc Committee’s membership appears to be focused on members from the Senate Government Operations Committee, with two from the Senate Judiciary added

From Government Operations

From Judiciary