Judicial Selection in Tennessee
Supreme Court justices and judges of the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are appointed by the Governor. As of October 2013, the Governor's Commission for Judicial Appointments serves to screen and interview judicial candidates, then recommend three for the governor's consideration. The Commission was created by executive order to replace the Judicial Nominating Commission, which provided essentially the same service.
All appellate judges are subject to a retention election held every eight years. If a judge or justice is appointed during the middle of that eight years, they are subject to a retention vote at the next general election, and then again at the next regular retention election for a full eight-year term.
For more information about voting in Tennessee, visit the League of Women Voters’ Vote411 site.
Pending Proposed Changes
On the ballot in November 2014, SJR 002 would amend the constitution to end merit selection of appellate judges and move to gubernatorial appointment with legislative confirmation.
HB 1767/SB 1896 would require contested elections of appellate judges if voters fail to approve SJR 002.
HB 1559/SB 1730 would require the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission to take its votes in public.
HB 2358/SB 2075 would reestablish a judicial nominating commission, with 11 members appointed by legislative leaders.
The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission evaluates the performance of justices and judges standing for retention and recommends to voters whether each judge should be retained. Click here for the evaluation report for judges on the ballot in 2014.
For more information about Tennessee’s courts and judges, visit the Tennessee State Courts website.