NASHVILLE, TN – The State Senate has approved a resolution sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers calling for an elected State Attorney General (AG). The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 698, was approved by a vote of 19-14 this morning on the Senate floor.
“If the role of the Attorney General in the state of Tennessee is to provide the best legal service possible to the state and its citizens, then it doesn’t make much sense to me that he or she is currently twice removed from the citizens of Tennessee,” said Beavers. “Currently, the people of Tennessee have to elect a governor, who appoints the Supreme Court, who then appoints the Attorney General and Reporter. This process eliminates any possible practical or substantial check of the attorney general by Tennesseans – who are supposed to be his or her most important clients.”
Forty-three states elect their attorneys general via a popular election, and in six other states, the Attorney General is selected by either the popularly elected Governor or the popularly elected state legislature. Beavers said for most of Tennessee’s history, when the Constitution called for nomination by the Supreme Court Justices, the court was popularly elected.
“The Supreme Court Rules talk about promoting public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” said Beavers. “How does a system where an Attorney General appointed by the same body he might one day argue a case before promote public confidence and impartiality?”
The resolution offered by Beavers would amend the state’s Constitution to allow a popular election every four years. The amendment process would require approval by both the 106th and 107th General Assemblies. If approved, the question would then go to voters in a statewide referendum in the year 2014.