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Conservative effort to oust Tennessee Supreme Court justices fails

Three of the court’s five justices were targeted in retention election

♦By Rich Shumate,

tennessee mugNASHVILLE (CFP) — Conservative critics of Tennessee’s Supreme Court have failed in their campaign to oust three of the court’s five justices, which would have given Republican Governor Bill Haslam the power to appoint a new majority on the state’s highest court

Chief Justice Gary Wade

Chief Justice Gary Wade

Tennessee voters decided to retain Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee in the August 7 vote. The three targeted justices were all appointed by former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.

In Tennessee, justices don’t run directly for election, but voters decide every eight years if they should be retained. The Supreme Court also has the power to appoint the state’s attorney general, which uniquely in Tennessee is neither elected nor appointed by the governor.

Support for retention of all three justices topped 55 percent.

Critics of the three justices accused them of being soft on crime, particularly in death penalty cases. The effort to oust them was lead by Republican Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and supported by Americans for Prosperity, a political operation funded by the billionaire Koch brothers from Kansas.

The justices raised and spent more than $1 million defending their record.

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