Lawmakers debate whether another court should be established to hear constitutional cases

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Is it court-packing or getting better representation in the judicial system? That’s the debate lawmakers are having on Capitol Hill.

A new proposal is moving through the House Civil Justice Committee that would allow Governor Bill Lee to appoint judges to a state court that exclusively listens to challenges of the constitution.

The court, which would be housed in Davidson County, would represent the three grand divisions.

“This is a very fair way to say look eastern, middle and western divisions— we’re going to give you all a voice here,” Rep. Andrew Farmer, the Republican House bill sponsor said.

However, Democrats argue that the Republican majority is doing the bidding of Lee.

“This bill and several others we’ve seen this year are a direct result of this administration’s inability to win a court case — they take issue with the fact that they keep passing unconstitutional laws and losing in the courthouse,” Nashville Rep. John Clemmons said.

The legislation allows the Governor to initially appoint members to the court from each grand division. They could then run for an eight-year term concurrent with the gubernatorial elections.

“If there are constitutional issues and other members and other folks in these positions as well, why are these heard in Davidson County? Well it’s the seat of the capitol for one,” Farmer said. “It’s the middle of the state, two, so but why can’t we not put ourselves in a situation where we can spread things out and have a fair representation?”

Clemmons says that process is already set up with the current judicial model and this move will be a backdoor way to pack the court.

“If they don’t like the outcome of a case at the trial court level it’s going to the court of appeals most likely the court of appeals is compromised from individuals from each grand division,” he said.

House Judiciary Chairman Michael Curcio and member of the Civil Justice Committee says this is the start of a conversation that should happen.

“It’s just an interesting concept, just not something we’ve ever entertained before so I mean I think that’s part of the deliberative process,” Curcio said.

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