Friday, January 27, 2006


Politics and Supreme Court Nominations

First, an apology for the lack of blogging this week. It was a busy day in court yesterday (a good day for my clients, but a tiring, busy day nonetheless).

Bob Novack has a good piece on how conservative groups are using the confirmation vote of Judge Alito (which could come as early as next Tuesday) to their advantage in states where Democratic Senators are up for re-election in 2006. Of course, what he fails to mention is that these incumbents should be concerned about how their constituents view their votes every year, not just in years where their precious positions are at risk.

Here in the Volunteer State, it has become apparent over the past two days that the Tennessee Supreme Court will certainly look different next year, with the announcements by Justice Anderson and Justice Birch that they will both retire from the bench in August. Former Chief Justice Drowota retired only 5 months ago, so this gives Governor Bredesen the opportunity to appoint three of the five judges in a year's time - an unprecedented change of the Court in Tennessee.

Despite what The Tennesseean is reporting, this will be a political exercise. Just look at Governor Bredesen's last appointment, Cornelia Clark. In that process, Bredesen had the choice between a Republican jurist with an excellent reputation (although many wish he would work a little faster) and a person with a long record of serving in leadership positions within the Democratic Party. I think you know who was appointed to that opening on the Court. Anyone saying that this isn't political is either being PC or lying.

With the retirement of Justice Anderson (freeing up an appointment from East Tennessee, as no more than two justices can reside in each of Tennessee's grand divisions) and the near certainty that the new justices will be Democrats, I would like to offer a name to Governor Bredesen as a potential nominee - Jim Ripley. For full disclosure, Mr. Ripley is my uncle. He has also served in a primarily volunteer role on the Tennessee Lottery Commission, is a partner in the Sevierville law firm of Sharp & Ripley, an avid hunter and NRA member, and not overly political in the community. Plus, I think he would be open to appointment if asked. Of course, with my endorsement to Governor Bredesen, I probably just killed any chance that Mr. Ripley had of being appointed.

Although we disagree about many things (the death penalty and abortion, for starters), I am sad to see Justice Birch head into retirement. You see, it was Justice Birch that heard the motion delivered by Ed Bryant for my entrance to practice in Tennessee. He will always have a special place in my memories.

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