When the Tennessee Legislature failed to extend the life of the Judicial Nominating Commission, it effectively ended merit-based selection of judges in Tennessee. It also left open the question of whether there is any mechanism to replace a Tennessee judge who steps down, retires or dies.
Voters will decide in November 2014 whether they want to amend the state constitution to change the way judges are chosen in Tennessee. The amendment would give the governor the right to appoint appellate court judges followed by confirmation of the Legislature. Some lawyers warn the Legislature has left Tennessee without a way to pick judges before voters go to the polls next year because the commission that is set to expire June 30 currently helps the governor select judges.