by Lee Davis
According to a recent report by the Tennessean, the Tennessee Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would change how judicial misconduct is disciplined. The bill passed the Senate with a 30-0 vote and it eliminates the Court of the Judiciary and creates a panel of individuals appointed by several different members of the Tennessee legislature and bench. The bill is likely to pass the House, although there has yet to be final vote on the measure.
The new 16-member panel will be called the Board of Judicial Conduct. Its creation comes on the heels of several complaints that the Court of the Judiciary was too lenient on misbehaving judges and also complaints, real or imagined, that the Tennessee Supreme Court had too much influence over the Court. As part of the new law, the Board would be required to report to the legislature how many complaints against judges have been received and how many have been resolved.
There are some significant differences between the Court of the Judiciary and the Board of Judicial Conduct. The Board would be composed of ten judges and 6 individuals who are not on the bench, which is the same as the Court, but the manner of appointment is different. Judges from throughout the state of Tennessee would select the ten judge members. The non-judge seats will be filled by appointments by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the Speaker of the House who would get two appointments a piece. As noted, the Board would be required to submit frequent reports to the legislature about the volume of complaints against judges and the disposition of those complaints, allowing the legislature to monitor whether the Board is properly investigating and resolving judicial complaints.
If the bill becomes law, the Board of Judicial Conduct will be allowed to work for about two years. After that, the law that created it will come up for review and the legislature will have to determine whether the Board is worth keeping or whether it is time of reevaluate how the state disciplines the judiciary.
Lawmakers, however, believe that this new procedure will be good for Tennessee and will increase the public’s confidence in the competency and integrity of the judiciary. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet said, “There’s going to be more transparency,” which everyone, including the judges, should appreciate.
Read: “TN Senate votes to increase judicial oversight,” by Chas Sisk, published at Tennessean.com.