State Senate, House Reach Agreement on Appellate Judges

Conference committee calls for joint action on approvial but establishes threshold allowing either chamber to block a gubernatorial nominee.

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The unexpectedly complicated sequel to the passage last year of a constitutional amendment on judicial conformation seems to have ended finally with an agreement hammered out in the General Assembly.
state Sen. Brian Kelsey - JB
  • JB
  • state Sen. Brian Kelsey
The amendment called for appointment by the Governor of state appellate judges, followed by confirmation by the legislature. Given that the legislature is composed of two chambers, which occasionally have differing points of view, some controversy had swirled around just what was involved in legislative confirmation — whether the two chambers might should express themselves jointly or separately and whether one chamber could offset the opinion of the other.

A conference committee of the state House and state Senate reached a compromise solution allowing separate initial considerations of an appellate nominee by either chamber, followed by a joint vote, and allowing either chamber to block an appointment by a two-thirds vote. 

The solution is addressed in the following news release about Senate Bill 1, sponsored by state Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and was the sponsor of the original constitutional amendment.

(NASHVILLE) – The Senate and House of Representatives have adopted a conference committee report on Senate Bill 1 which puts into place a framework on how the state’s appellate judges should be confirmed or rejected under the new constitutional mandate adopted by voters in 2014. The bill is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).

Under the constitutional amendment, appellate judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. The voters of Tennessee have the ability to vote to retain or not retain judges at the end of their 8-year terms or, if an appointment is to fill a vacancy, at the next even year August election.

“I am thrilled the agreement passed the Senate and House with overwhelming majorities,” said Kelsey. The Senate passed it unanimously (33-0) and the House tally was 86-5. “I look forward to holding the first ever confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. We are setting precedent for quality judges in Tennessee for the next hundred years.”

Under the agreement, the Senate Judiciary Committee and its House counterpart will each hold a meeting to hear from the appointee. Following the hearing the committee will vote to recommend confirmation or rejection of the appointee to the full Senate. Next, the Senate and House of Representatives will meet in joint session to either confirm or reject the governor’s appointee.

If both chambers vote to confirm, the appointee is confirmed. If both chambers vote to reject, the appointee is rejected. Also, one chamber may reject the appointee by a two thirds vote.

On January 7, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Judge Roger Page of Jackson to the Tennessee Supreme Court, replacing Justice Gary Wade, who retired in September. Upon being signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, the process laid out in the bill will be used when lawmakers consider his nomination.


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