Brief filed, arguments set in Tenn. SC case

John O'Brien Jan. 29, 2007, 3:50pm


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Supreme Court Justice hopeful George Lewis filed a reply brief Friday in his case against Gov. Phil Bredesen, and the Court will hear oral arguments Thursday.

Lewis and J. Houston Gordon intervened in the lawsuit of Bredesen v. Tennessee Judicial Selection Committee, claiming they were discriminated against by Bredesen because they are white. Bredesen rejected a three-member panel appointed by the JSC after one member, who was black, dropped out.

"Based upon the provisions of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution, Lewis respectfully requests that this court hold that the rejection of the first panel solely because its remaining nominees are Caucasian was unlawful and that the duty of the Governor is to fill the vacancy on this court from the names sent him on the first panel," Lewis' brief says.

When the third candidate - Davidson County Chancellor Richard Dinkins -- withdrew his name, Bredesen asked for a new list of candidates because he wanted one with a minority on it. Dinkins was the lone black person on the first panel.

The second panel that was submitted again featured Gordon and Lewis and added D'Army Bailey, who is black. However, Bredesen refused the list, claiming candidates who were already rejected could not be resubmitted.

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle agreed with Bredesen, and the Judicial Selection Committee planned a Jan. 24 meeting to pick the new third candidate, who would join Bailey and Judge William Koch (of the state's Court of Appeals).

That left out Gordon and Lewis, who decided to ask that the appointment be stayed until their discrimination claim could be worked out.

Gordon is an attorney practicing in Covington, and Lewis, nicknamed "Buck," is the vice president of the Tennessee Bar Association.

Justice Gary Wade has recused himself from hearing the case because, "My own nomination and eventual appointment as an associate justice is a part of the history of this litigation."

Wade filled one of the two spots last year that were created when justices Riley Anderson and Adolpho Birch retired. Anderson will take Wade's spot during the hearing.

Tennessee's Supreme Court has the unique power of appointing the state's attorney general rather than having voters decide. In November, the Court chose Robert Cooper for an eight-year term to replace Paul Summers. Cooper is now representing Bredesen.

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