Legislative Update: Judicial Selection in Tennessee

February 4, 2016

Following the adoption by Tennessee voters in 2014 of a constitutional amendment giving the legislature confirmation power over the governor’s judicial appointees, the General Assembly has been tasked with determining how the legislature will exercise this authority.  This issue was not resolved during the 2015 legislative session, which meant that the judges appointed in the interim were automatically deemed approved once sixty days elapsed from the date of appointment.

For the 2016 session, a Conference Committee on Judicial Confirmation was appointed to recommend a plan (SB 1/HB 142).   The Committee met four times and, on January 20, 2016, adopted a report with a proposal to be considered by the full General Assembly.  The Conference Committee’s proposal was adopted, voted upon by the House and Senate, and signed into law by the Governor effective January 28, 2016.

Under the new law, the House and Senate will meet jointly to confirm a judicial appointee and a majority “yes” vote of the combined House and Senate is needed for confirmation.  A majority of “no” votes rejects the appointee.  In the alternative, either the House or the Senate alone can reject the appointee with a two-thirds majority vote.  As before, if a timely vote is not held, the nominee will be deemed approved.

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