NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee capitol hill democrats say a House bill to remove Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle is equivalent to legislative blackmail.
The bill, sponsored by Rutherford County Republican Tim Rudd, is gaining attention after he said Chancellor Lyle violated her oath.
“She interfered in our election, she did not throw out state law, she tried to rewrite state law, and a judge can’t do that,” said Rep. Tim Rudd.
The legislation will authorize the Speaker of the House of Representatives to appoint a committee to meet with a like committee from the Senate to consider the removal of Lyle from the Office of Chancellor of the Twentieth Judicial District by the Tennessee General Assembly.
“She tried to have mass available absentee balloting without the approval of the state legislature, and only the state legislature can write election laws,” said Rudd.
The Murfreesboro Republican is leading the charge targeting Chancellor Lyle, who was appointed by Republican Governor Don Sundquist in 1996, for an August 2020 injunction allowing for more people to qualify to vote absentee because of COVID-19.
“What the Republican political operatives who are behind this are saying to our judiciary is if you’re a judge, don’t do your job and impartially apply the law as Chancellor Lyle did, instead carry out our far-right political agenda,” said Davidson County Representative Mike Stewart.
Democrats are striking back accusing Republicans of abuse of power.
“They would take that limited power and try to apply it and retaliate politically against a judge that everybody knows is an extraordinary talented and impartial judge, it’s totally ridiculous,” said Stewart.
Chancellor Lyle and the Attorney General’s office had no comment.
Rudd says Democrats are upset because they’re in the minority.
“The Democrats are in favor of judges interfering with the legislative [branch] because they can’t get their agenda passed,” Rudd said. “Judges should stay on their side of the line, we’ll stay on ours and respect one another.”
Currently, judges can be removed by impeachment for a crime, unfitness for office, and through a judicial conduct review board. There are over 60 House co-sponsors.
Chancellor Lyle also recused herself recently from overseeing Governor Bill Lee’s BEP education funding lawsuit. It’s unclear if it was related to the removal resolution.
Rep. Rudd released a full statement, calling Lyles’ conduct ‘egregious and grossly unprofessional’:
“The American representative democracy is deeply dependent on two things: A neutral free press to give citizens unbiased and unopinionated information from which to make their decisions, and a fair and non-partisan judiciary dedicated to upholding the Tennessee State Constitution without legislating from the bench. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle violated the boundaries between the legislative and judiciary when she attempted to disregard state law and implement her own rules, personal opinions and policies that were in direct contradiction of existing state law. She knew and fully understood the Tennessee General Assembly did not authorize or support mass-mail balloting. The legislature is the only authority in Tennessee that can write laws or hold elections.
The U.S. Constitution plainly states ‘The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations’ (Article I, section 4). The last time I looked, the words “Judiciary having the power to hold elections” was not in the U.S. Constitution or the Tennessee State Constitution. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle overstepped her responsibilities and violated her oath. She further threatened state officials with incarceration if they did not break the law by implementing her rules. Her conduct is egregious and grossly unprofessional.”