Tennessee is the only state that lets the court of last resort (Supreme Court) pick the Attorney General. Legislators are (again) trying to remove that power.

Tennessee’s constitution is unique among states in that it provides that the state’s Attorney General is neither elected by the voters nor appointed by the Governor and/or Legislature but is instead appointed by the state’s court of last resort (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 and 2017 is no exception.

SJR 57 as filed earlier this week would provide for the election of the Attorney General starting in November 2024. It also sets the requirements to be AG (at least 30, licensed attorney, etc.) and sets a limit of two consecutive terms.

While as I noted there have been 2 decades worth of efforts to remove the Supreme Court’s power, none have ever made it out of the legislature with the Senate passing several versions only to the have the House kill the bills or fail to take them up. Among notable attempts:

Direct Election

SJR 123 of 2013/2014 Senate failed to reach 2/3rds majority, vote failed 15-14 (22 needed).

SJR 63 of 2015/2016 Approved by full Senate 23-9. Died in House committee.

Legislative appointment

HJR 804 of 2011/2012 Approved by House Judiciary Committee on voice vote. Died in House Finance Committee.

SJR 196 of 2013/2014  Approved by full Senate 22-9. Died in House committee.

Gubernatorial appointment with confirmation

SJR 693 of 2011/2012 (House and Senate confirmation) Senate failed to reach 2/3rds majority, vote failed 16-15-2 (22 needed).