A Special Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Monday that holding retention elections for the state's appellate judges is constitutional.
The court, which was put together after the regular members of the Supreme Court recused themselves, ruled that it isn't necessary to have contested elections when it comes to judges who sit on the state's various appeals courts. Instead, a simple "yes" or "no" ballot on whether to retain an appellate judge would suffice, the court ruled.
The question was raised by John Jay Hooker, a Nashville attorney who has been battling for decades to change the way Tennessee elects higher court judges. He had argued that Tennessee's Constitution requires a fully contested election between incumbents and challengers.
The court declined to take up whether the now-defunct Judicial Nominating Commission was constitutional in how it selected higher court judges. That commission no longer exists.
Hooker could not be reached for comment Monday on the Supreme Court decision.
Hooker was more successful in a second lawsuit, in which he got a Davidson County judge to rule the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission was unconstitutionally seated. That commission's members were supposed to "approximate the population of the state with respect to race and gender," according to Tennessee law. But the board instead consists of seven white men, one white woman and one black woman.
Still, the decision didn't stop the commission from continuing to meet, which led to yet another Hooker lawsuit, since dismissed.
The special Supreme Court that ruled on Monday was made up of attorney Andree Sophia Blumstein, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge J. Robert Carter Jr., Retired U.S. Attorney James R. Dedrick, Knoxville attorney W. Morris Kizer and Memphis attorney Monica N. Wharton.