Tenn. legislature mulling changes to disciplinary board

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 22, 2011, 1:47pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - Tennessee lawmakers are looking to overhaul the state's Court of Judiciary, a board that disciplines judges.

According to its website, the Court of the Judiciary was created by the legislature to investigate and, when warranted, act on complaints against judges.

In particular, the board was designed to provide an orderly and efficient method for making an inquiry into:

- The physical, mental and/or moral fitness of any Tennessee judge;

- Whether the judge committed judicial misconduct; and

- Whether the judge committed any act calculated to reflect unfavorably upon the judiciary of the state or bring it into disrepute or which may adversely affect the administration of justice in the state.

The board also was established to provide a process by which appropriate sanctions may be imposed and to implement constitutional provisions by providing a procedure for the removal of judges.

Members are appointed by multiple appointing authorities, including the state Supreme Court.

But some state lawmakers are pushing for changes, hoping to bring the board more in line with those of other states.

According to The Tennessean, a special legislative committee met for two days this week to review the current discipline system.

Among the suggestions to come from the meeting, state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, is proposing a reduction of the board's size from 16 to 12 members, with only five, instead of 10, being judges.

Beavers says she also would like to see those members appointed by the state House and Senate, not the state's high court.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, agreed. He says allowing the Court to appoint judges is a conflict of interest and that it needs to be done away with.

Lawmakers also are reconsidering the board's practice of mostly disciplining judges in private, The Tennessean reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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