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How to vote on the “retention of judges”?

I’ve been asked for advice on whether or not to retain the two Tennessee appellate court judges listed on the August election ballot. I don’t know anything good, bad, or indifferent about either of them, but I’m voting FOR keeping them in office because I believe the state’s high courts should be independent of politics. Their decisions should based on their interpretation of the law, not on what’s popular.

Some years ago, after Justice Penny White got removed from the Tennessee Supreme Court, I concluded that those of us who support an independent judiciary need to vote FOR retention of judges unless we know something that causes us to want to remove a particular judge. Many voters skip over the judge retention items on the ballot, which makes it easier for narrow political interests to target specific judges (like Penny White) for removal for “not making the right decisions”. Thus, a FOR vote is a vote for a judicial system that is not controlled by politics.

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2 Comments

  1. Roberta says:

    I’ve been doing some reading on the Penny White case, and I’m struggling to find the two other court decisions that factored into her removal. I’m aware of the State V. Odom death penalty case, but what were the other two cases cited in the pamphlets and brochures that advocated a no vote on her?

  2. Ellen Smith says:

    I can’t help you on that, Roberta. If you are really curious, I suppose you might try contacting Penny White at UT College of Law, where she is on the faculty. (Here’s a link to her webpage.)

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