J. Houston Gordon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In agreeing with Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen's challenge of a list of candidates for the vacant fifth spot on the state's Supreme Court, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has forced the Judicial Selection Committee to reconvene for the purpose of selecting a new candidate.
Over the summer, Bredesen refused the list of three candidates chosen for potential appointment by the JSC because the only minority candidate -- Davidson County Chancellor Richard Dinkins -- withdrew his name from consideration.
The remaining two applicants -- J. Houston Gordon and George Lewis -- made up two-thirds of the next panel submitted to Bredesen, but he moved to have them removed on the grounds that because they were already part of a rejected panel, they could not be resubmitted.
Lyle agreed on Dec. 14 and wrote that Judge D'Army Bailey (the minority candidate on the second panel) and Judge William Koch (of the state's Court of Appeals) will make up two-thirds of the next panel, and the JSC must meet to select a third candidate.
"In accordance with Chancellor Lyle's decision, the Judicial Selection Commission will meet on January 24, 2007, at the Administrative Office of the Courts to choose the third nominee for the vacant Tennessee Supreme Court position. The commission will proceed as directed by the chancellor unless an appropriate court directs otherwise," Committee Chairman Dale Tuttle said.
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.
The two white members (Gordon and Lewis) from the second panel unsuccessfully argued that they were discriminated against because of their race, according to a story in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Lyle wrote that "Tennessee plan does not invest the commission as the sole medium for addressing diversity concerns in the selection of appellate judges."
Gordon and Lewis have also appealed to the Supreme Court and asked for a stay of Lyle's order.
According to Tuttle, there are 13 candidates to fill the remaining spot in the third panel. They are: Frank G. Clement, Jr. (Nashville); David O. Day (Baxter); Steve R. Dozier (Brentwood); John T. Fowlkes (Memphis); Sean Antone Hunt (Germantown); Andrei Ellen Lee (Nashville); C. Creed McGinley (Savannah); J.C. McLin (Memphis); Russell Taylor Perkins (Whites Creek); Nathan B. Pride (Jackson); Stephanie R. Reevers (Antioch); Lillie Ann Sells (Cookeville); and Steven R. Walker (Memphis).