The Court of the Judiciary is a 16-member panel made up of 10 judges, three attorneys and three lay people who investigate complaints and may recommend removal, suspension, or other discipline of a judge.
The joint committee will be led by House Judiciary Chair Eric Watson and Senate Judiciary Chair Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet.
Members of the joint committee include Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who will take the three Senate seats. Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, make up the House seats.
The joint committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 20 and 21 at 9 a.m. in Legislative Plaza.
Watson, a captain in charge of the court security division of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department, has been a voice for law enforcement since he was first elected in 2006. As chair of the House Judiciary, the scope of his duties was expanded to include civil law, criminal law, property rights, estate law, wills, executors, law enforcement officers, courts, judges, judicial proceedings and reapportionment legislation.
“I have constantly advocated for greater transparency and more careful oversight when it comes to the actions of the Court of the Judiciary,” Watson said. “We have a fantastic legal system in Tennessee, but we need to ensure the Court of the Judiciary reviews complaints in a timely manner and acts swiftly when it is called for. Requiring greater clarity in the judicial system is a legitimate interest of the General Assembly and I am proud to help lead that effort.”
Bell’s said at the time of his appointment announced Aug. 16, that special legislative committee hearings held last year found approximately 90 percent of hundreds of complaints lodged annually against judges were dismissed. He said Court of the Judiciary proceedings are not open to the public and reprimands are rarely made publicly available. There have also been reports of shredding documents regarding dismissed cases.
“The Court of the Judiciary as it currently functions is clearly broken,” Bell said. “I’m looking forward to working toward improving the manner in which we keep judges accountable in this state.”
This is the first joint committee to look at the court.
He said Beavers brought a bill during the last session of the legislative session requiring a reconstituted court with increased transparency. The bill, S.B. 1088 is set to be on the first calendar when the Legislature returns in January 2012.