Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 17: Judges and Chancellors

Chapter 4: Judicial Nomination and Performance Evaluation

Part 2: Judicial Performance Evaluation

TCA 17-4-201: Judicial performance evaluation program.

(a) (1) By rule, the supreme court shall establish a judicial performance evaluation program for appellate court judges. The purpose of the program shall be to assist the public in evaluating the performance of incumbent appellate court judges. The judicial performance evaluation commission, established pursuant to subsection (b), shall perform the required evaluations. The commission shall make a recommendation either "for retention" or "for replacement" of each appellate court judge; provided, that the commission shall not evaluate or make any retention recommendation with regard to any appellate judge whose term of office is abbreviated because of death, resignation or removal. Furthermore, the commission shall not include within the final report, publicly disclosed pursuant to subsection (c), an evaluation or retention recommendation for any appellate judge whose term of office is abbreviated because of death, resignation or removal or who fails to timely file a declaration of candidacy as required by SC 17-4-114(a) or SC 17-4-115(a), unless the judge is a candidate for another office subject to evaluation under this section.

(2) If an incumbent appellate judge holds office for one (1) year or more preceding the deadline for filing the required declaration of candidacy for either an unexpired term or a full eight-year term, then evaluation procedures shall be based on the results of any evaluations performed throughout the judge's service on the appellate bench, evaluation surveys, personal information contained in an approved self-reporting form and such other comments and documents as the commission receives from any other reliable source. However, if an incumbent judge holds office for less than one (1) year preceding the deadline, then evaluation procedures shall be based on personal information contained in the self-reporting form, the judge's application to the judicial nominating commission and such other comments and documents as the commission receives from any other reliable source.

(3) Information collected pursuant to subdivision (a)(2) shall be confidential and shall be publicly disclosed only in the manner permitted by subsection (c). Upon request, each member of the judicial performance evaluation commission shall be given complete access to any individual survey, form, application, comment and document submitted, conveyed or compiled for the purpose of judicial evaluation; however, each such member must protect the confidentiality of the information as well as the anonymity of survey respondents.

(4) (A) At least thirty (30) days prior to the deadline for filing a declaration of candidacy required by SC 17-4-114(a)(1) or SC 17-4-115(a)(1), the judicial performance evaluation commission shall provide an incumbent appellate judge with a draft of the commission's evaluation and shall provide the judge with a reasonable opportunity to comment or respond either personally or in writing.

(B) As soon as is reasonably practicable under the circumstances, but not less than three (3) days prior to the deadline for filing a declaration of candidacy required by SC 17-4-114(a)(2) or SC 17-4-115(a)(2), the judicial performance evaluation commission shall provide an incumbent appellate judge with a draft of the commission's evaluation and shall provide the judge with a reasonable opportunity to comment or respond either personally or in writing.

(b) (1) The judicial performance evaluation commission shall be composed of nine (9) members.

(2) The speaker of the senate shall appoint four (4) of the members, of whom one (1) shall be a state court judge, two (2) shall be attorney members and one (1) shall be a non-attorney. No more than two (2) of those appointed shall reside in the same grand division.

(3) The speaker of the house of representatives shall appoint four (4) of the members, of whom one (1) shall be a state court judge, one (1) shall be an attorney, and two (2) shall be non-attorney members. No more than two (2) of those appointed shall reside in the same grand division.

(4) The speaker of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives shall jointly appoint one (1) state court judge.

(5) The supreme court's evaluation procedure may permit the judicial performance evaluation commission to perform an evaluation with less than the full membership in panels, but the full commission shall approve the evaluation.

(6) The appointing authorities for the judicial performance evaluation commission shall make appointments that approximate the population of the state with respect to race and gender. In appointing attorneys to the commission, the speakers shall receive, but shall not be bound by, recommendations from any interested person or organization.

(7) To stagger the terms of judicial performance evaluation commission members, beginning July 1, 2009, the three (3) non-attorney members on the commission shall serve six-year transition terms, the three (3) state court judges on the commission shall serve four-year transition terms, and the three (3) attorney members on the commission shall serve two-year transition terms. At the conclusion of the transition terms, each regular term of a commission member shall be six (6) years. A vacancy on the commission shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment for the remainder of the unexpired term.

(8) No commission member shall serve more than two (2) terms, including any partial term.

(9) A member of the judicial performance evaluation commission is not eligible to seek an appellate judgeship that becomes available as a result of, or related to, the commission's recommendation for replacement of an incumbent appellate judge as set out in subsection (a).

(c) (1) The judicial performance evaluation program shall require publication and disclosure of a final report. The final report shall not include any individual record or evaluation, but may include, for each appellate judge, the individual final scores for the survey results. The final report shall be made available for public inspection on the first Thursday in March preceding the regular August election. On the first Sunday in July preceding the regular August election, the final report shall be published in a daily newspaper of general circulation in the Tri-Cities area, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis. The final report for each appellate court judge may not exceed six hundred (600) words.

(2) As soon as is reasonably practicable under the circumstances, in order to assist the public in electing the best qualified persons to the appellate courts, the commission shall cause supplemental final reports to be published as may be necessitated by the filing of declarations of candidacy, required by SC 17-4-114(a)(2) or SC 17-4-115(a)(2).

(d) The judicial performance evaluation program, including the public report and the ballot information, shall apply to each appellate court judge who seeks to serve a complete term after July 1, 2009.

History: Acts 2009, ch. 517, SC 2; 2012, ch. 953, SC 1.