Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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Starbuck filed a nominating petition seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Tennessee Republican Party, through the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (TRP SEC), determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican, and would not appear on the ballot. Starbuck sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants violated the Tennesse Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Tenn. Code 8-44-101-111, by determining in a non-public meeting that he is not a bona fide Republican.The trial court concluded that the defendants violated TOMA and ordered that Starbuck be restored to the ballot. The Tennessee Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction and vacated. Only the state primary boards, not the state executive committees, are required to comply with TOMA (Tenn. Code 2-13-108(a)(2)). Section 2-13-104 provides that “a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” Under section 2-5-204(b)(2), a party’s state executive committee makes the determination of whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. TRP SEC, by statute, was acting as a state executive committee, and not a state primary board, when it determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican and was not required to comply with TOMA. View "Newsom v. Tennessee Republican Party" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in issuing a temporary injunction enjoining the State from enforcing its current construction of the eligibility requirements for absentee voting stated in Tenn. Code Ann. 2-6-201(5)(C) and (D).The injunction temporarily mandated the State to provide any eligible Tennessee voter who applies to vote by mail in order to avoid transmission or contraction of COVID-19 an absentee ballot in upcoming elections. The mandate further mandated the State to implement the construction and application of section 2-6-201(5)(C) and (D) that any qualified voter who determines it it impossible or unreasonable to vote in person at a polling place due to the COVID-19 situation shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that the person is ill or disabled and unable to appear at the person's polling place on election day. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's judgment, holding (1) as to persons with special vulnerability to COVID-19 or who are caretakers for such persons, the State is instructed to ensure that appropriate guidance is provided to Tennessee voters with respect to the eligibility of such persons to vote absentee by mail; and (2) as to the remaining voters, the trial court erred in issuing the temporary injunction. View "Lay v. Goins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “Tennessee Plan,” which governs the way in which judges of the Tennessee appellate courts are initially selected and thereafter stand for election. The court of appeals upheld as constitutional the Judicial Nominating Commission/gubernatorial appointment under the Tennessee Plan, the retention election portion of the Tennessee Plan, and the election of the Tennessee intermediate appellate court judges on a statewide basis. The Special Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the court of appeals, holding (1) the issue of the constitutional validity of the Judicial Nominating Commission/gubernatorial appointment process under the Tennessee Plan was moot because by the time the Court heard oral argument, the judicial nominating commission portions of the Tennessee Plan were no longer in effect; (2) the retention election portion of the Tennessee Plan satisfies the constitutional requirement that the judges of the appellate courts be elected by the qualified voters of the State; and (3) the election of judges to the court of appeals and court of criminal appeals on a statewide basis does not violate the state Constitution. View "Hooker v. Haslam" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a law providing that citizens who appear in person to vote must present photographic proof of their identity. The statute authorized a photographic identification card issued by the State as a valid form of identification. Plaintiffs were two residents who attempted to vote in the primary election using photographic identification cards issued by the City of Memphis Public Library. The residents and City filed a declaratory judgment action arguing (1) the photographic identification requirement violated constitutional protections, and (2) the City qualified as an entity of the State authorized to issue valid photographic identification cards through its public library. The trial court denied relief. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the photographic identification requirement did not violate constitutional principles, and (2) the photographic identification cards issued by the library complied with the statute for voting purposes. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the issue pertaining to the library cards as photographic identification was moot because a change in the law precluded the use of photographic identification cards issued by municipalities or their libraries for voting purposes; and (2) the photographic identification requirement met constitutional scrutiny. View "City of Memphis v. Hargett" on Justia Law