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State of Tennessee

History of Reform Efforts: Tennessee

Formal Changes Since Inception

1796
All judges elected by the general assembly and serve during good behavior.

1835
Tenure of supreme court justices changed from good behavior to twelve years. Tenure of all other judges changed from good behavior to eight years.

1853
All judges elected by the people to eight-year terms.

1971
Legislature passes the Tennessee Plan, which prescribed a merit-based selection process for all appellate judges.

1974
Tennessee Plan for supreme court repealed.

1994
Tennessee Plan reauthorized for supreme court and retention evaluation program adopted.

2001
Size of judicial selection commission increased from fifteen to seventeen members. Two-term limit established for commission members.

2009
Judicial selection commission replaced by the judicial nominating commission. Eight of the seventeen nominating commission members appointed by the speaker of the senate, eight members by the speaker of the house, and one member by the speakers jointly. Governor permitted to call for a second panel of three nominees and to choose an appointee from the first or second panel. Retention ballot language changed to ask voters whether to "retain" or "replace" judges.