Tenn. Senate Committee Holds Hearing Over Chief Justice Complaint

Jun 25, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Republican panel spent four hours questioning top judicial officials about the handling of a complaint against the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the investigation, headed by Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, has stalled after officials with the state Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission and the state Board of Judicial Conduct said no laws were broken and no judicial rules violated.

Bell wanted Chief Justice Gary Wade disciplined for allegedly violating rules about judges lobbying and endorsing candidates. Wade has denied wrongdoing, and the Board of Judicial Conduct declined to take up Bell's complaint.

The hearing became heated at times, as in this exchange between Senator Brian Kelsey of Collierville and Board of Judicial Conduct Disciplinary Lawyer, Tim Discenza.

Sen. Kelsey: “Based on the testimony here today there’s a perception that the Chief Justice is protecting the appellate judges from negative criticism, and that the Board of Judicial Conduct is protecting the Chief Justice from negative criticism.”

Investigator DiSenza: Senator I do want to respond to that just a little bit. …the only thing that I’ve heard here today is that the only person from the Board who was here said, ‘Nobody contacted me.’ That’s the only information we’ve got. There’s nothing to investigate.”

The hearing was held in the midst of a campaign to unseat Wade and two other justices who are up for election in August.