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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tracy says Supreme Court selection method will change

Thursday, September 21, 2006

State Sen. Jim Tracy, center, spoke to a men's prayer breakfast this morning at Richard's Restaurant.
(T-G Photo by John I. Carney)
State Sen. Jim Tracy told a men's prayer breakfast this morning that the method of picking state Supreme Court justices "will be changed this year" after recent controversies.

Gov. Phil Bredesen sued the state's Judicial Selection Commission on Monday, claiming the panel's repeated nomination of a rejected Supreme Court candidate diminishes his ability to choose the best person for the job.

Bredesen criticized the commission for "some pretty obvious game playing," and is asking Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman to determine whether the most recent group of candidates is legal.

Tracy spoke this morning to a men's prayer breakfast at Richard's Restaurant sponsored by Fair Haven Baptist Church. Although his program was religious in nature, he took questions on state business at the end.

Tracy said he wasn't sure what new method might be chosen for selecting state Supreme Court justices, perhaps a system similar to that at the federal level where the governor would nominate candidates subject to confirmation by the legislature. Tracy said that at one time, he favored public election of Supreme Court members, but he said since that time he's become concerned that the public would not be familiar with the candidates and that requiring candidates to conduct expensive campaigns would simply politicize the judiciary.

Tracy also said he's received complaints about the extensive list of judges on the August election ballot. The public was asked to give yes-or-no retention votes on a large number of judicial candidates, an unwieldy system which extended the voting process.

In other issues, Tracy praised the General Assembly's decision to webcast its proceedings, including committee meetings. Tracy said ethics reforms can only go so far; a corrupt legislator will be corrupt in spite of new laws. But openness at least gives the voters a chance to see what is being done.

Tracy spoke about the role of paid lobbyists but said citizens can also take a role in affecting the legislative process. He noted the work of two women from East Tennessee, one of whom lost a daughter in a crash with a police car, in requiring law enforcement officers to take special training on driving at high speeds. Tracy said personal contact with legislators is much more effective than mass e-mails.

Associated Press reports contributed to this story.