The Republic
April 16, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A proposal that seeks to amend the state constitution to change the way appeals judges are selected passed the Senate on Monday night.

The resolution sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville was approved 21-9. It would give voters three options for selecting judges: contested elections, a federal-style plan, or a plan similar to the current one.

Under the current Tennessee judicial selection method, a commission nominates judges, the governor appoints them and voters cast ballots either for or against keeping them on the bench.

Norris said some type of plan is necessary because the current plan is scheduled to “sunset,” or end, and “this is the last opportunity Tennesseans have to get this on the ballot in 2014.”

Norris said some type of plan is necessary because the current plan is scheduled to end and this is the last chance to get it on the ballot in 2014.

However, opponents say the legislation is unnecessary.

“I think this is doing something that we can already do,” said Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga. “The current constitution authorizes us to have the Tennessee plan.”

Added Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis: “What we have is folks going around the edges saying I don’t like this or I don’t like that.”

Another proposal advancing in the Legislature would impose a federal-style system of having the governor make nominations to the Tennessee Supreme Court, and then giving lawmakers the power to confirm or reject them.

That measure was slightly amended on the Senate floor Monday and could be up for a vote later this week.

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