Tennessee’s lieutenant governor and a former mayor of Knoxville have called for more transparency in the Tennessee Supreme Court’s selection of the Attorney General.
Bob Cooper currently holds the slot, and in a process unlike many states, the state’s top court reviews candidates and decides who should take his place (or if he should remain in the job) when the eight-year term expires. In most states, the attorney general is an elected position.
Andy Sher with the Chattanooga Times Free Press today reports on criticism of the Tennessee Attorney General selection process by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and former Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe. The Supreme Court will make its choice on Monday after private interviews with the six finalists on Tuesday. A day earlier, the court conducted interviews with all eight of the applicants in a public meeting.
Tom Humphrey with the Knoxville News Sentinel shares a statement on his blog from Ashe:
The decision by the Supreme Court to hold closed sessions on the choice of the Attorney General is unfortunate and represents a missed opportunity for the Court to be transparent as pledged by more than one of them during the recent campaign.
The process has been 20 percent open and the rest closed. Tennesseans were not told by what vote the Court voted for closed sessions or by what vote two candidates were removed from the ballot.
The University of Tennessee a few years back choose its President in the open and he is still there. Why not the state Attorney General who makes public policy?
This makes the process political despite comments to the contrary.
I hope the General Assembly will enact legislation extending the open meetngs law to the deliberations of the Supreme Court when they meet in their unique role to choose the Attorney General. The public needs to be part of that process.
Ramsey had campaigned against retaining three of the five members of the court in August election and, along with other Republicans, has been critical of Cooper’s decision to not join other states in suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act.
In the public interviews by the court on Monday, Cooper referenced the ACA decision, saying “We were pushed by both sides in the Affordable Care Act lawsuit to join their position. We said no to both sides. It would not have been a wise use of state money. Its only purpose would have been to make a partisan political statement on a divisive national issue.”