Tennessee: state’s supreme court picks attorney general, now Senate wants court to vote in public

Tennessee is unique in that the state’s Supreme Court, not the governor or legislature or voting public at large, names the state’s Attorney General (Art. VI, Sec. 5)

An Attorney General and Reporter for the State, shall be appointed by the Judges of the Supreme Court and shall hold his office for a term of eight years.

Since 1997 over a dozen constitutional amendments have been introduced into the state’s legislature to remove this power from the Supreme Court as detailed here and here. This year, however, lawmakers appear to be taking a new approach; require the Supreme Court vote on the AG in public.

SB 1269 scheduled for a hearing March 1 before the Senate Judiciary Committee would provide

Prior to appointing the attorney general and reporter, any meeting in which the justices of the supreme court vote for a candidate for the office shall be subject to the open meetings law…

Part of impetus may be a recent move by the state’s Supreme Court to appoint the Republican Governor’s legal counsel as the new Attorney General, rejecting an effort by the serving Attorney General to obtain another term in office.

This marks the second attempt in the last year to force a state court of last resort to deliberate in public. Montana’s legislature narrowly rejected on a 48-52 vote a proposal to subject that state’s Supreme Court to open meetings requirements for all its deliberations as detailed here.

(original post discussing the House version here)