(WBIR- Knoxville) A vote to retain or replace three justices on the Tennessee Supreme Court is drawing an unusual amount of money and political attention.
Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Sharon Lee, and Justice Cornelia Clark are all on the August 7 ballot. Former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen appointed all three in 2006.
Some state lawmakers, including Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and conservative political groups are on the attack claiming those judges are liberal.
Lawyers across the state have stepped forward saying those claims are wrong and that the court doesn't favor one political party over the other.
Families and friends of victims in East Tennessee have taken a side after they say they've heavily researched the justices. Many people said this isn't a political issue but one of victims' rights.
Joan Berry's daughter, Johnia, was murdered in 2004. She was stabbed multiple times in her apartment in the Brendon Park complex in West Knox County on December 6, 2004. Her roommate, Jason Aymami, was wounded but got away.
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Since that day, Joan Berry said she has been working to be the voice of her daughter and take a stand for victims' rights.
"If you had to walk a mile in our shoes, you would understand how important this is," said Berry.
More than a dozen people gathered at Church Street United Methodist church Wednesday night to share their concerns about keeping the three justices on the bench.
One of those people was Tina Gregg. Her 23-year-old daughter, Brooke Morris, was murdered in October 2011.
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"These judges are going to affect us all," said Gregg. "Whether its murder like in my case, my daughter was murdered, or drunk driving. Anything the judge will have a say-so in."
Family members said victims and advocates have fought for decades to obtain the right to give a "victim impact statement" to the jury. They said they're worried about the judge's records on victim's rights.
Gregg said a comment made by Justice Clark gives her reason to believe that right may be taken away. It reads: "The risk of inflaming a jury's passions with such testimony is simply too great to allow its admission."
"They can throw it out if they wanted to if the judge thinks I showed more emotion then I needed to show," Gregg said. "You have your daughter killed and you tell me what kind of emotion you're going to show."
John Gill with the Knox County District Attorney's office said people don't realize how far this court has come.
"I don't think sometimes people realize how much better this court has been then others in the past," he said. "It's overlooked that the court really didn't have no choice. It's not that this wasn't a terrible crime or this person should have been convicted but they have to follow the constitution."
But those who lost a loved one said they aren't buying it and the only way to make progress, is by putting someone new on the bench.
"We're not happy with it," Berry said. "So I think if you had to walk a mile in our shoes, if it was a family member of yours, would you not want them to have as many rights as the criminal? Absolutely."
Family member said that this isn't about being a Democrat or Republican. They say it's about gaining more rights for those they have lost.
It's about gaining more rights for those they have lost.
The upcoming election is August 7th.