Gov. Phil Bredesen continued to express his disappointment with the state’s Judicial Selection Commission today for not sending him minority candidates for judicial openings.
Bredesen said today at an event to honor the renaming of a Nashville street for the famous civil rights leader, Rosa L. Parks, that the “push toward justice and righting wrongs is not over even today.”
“I want to take this occasion to express my disappointment that our Judicial Selection Commission has elected to send me a list for an appeals court vacancy with no African Americans on the list,” Bredesen said at the ceremony this afternoon at the state Capitol, breaking from his prepared remarks.
“I don’t know how I can make it any clearer to them that having 12 members of our appeals court all white is not appropriate in the state of Tennessee.”
Last week, the Judicial Selection Commission nominated three names for an open spot on the state Court of Appeals for the Middle District, which is based in Nashville.
The three nominees were all white males from a pool of 22 applicants. Of those 22, three were black men and women.
The Court of Appeals spot came open after Bredesen picked former appellate judge Bill Koch for a spot on the state Supreme Court. Koch’s selection meant the five-member Supreme Court would not have any black members.
Bredesen selected Koch after a legal battle with the Judicial Selection Commission that began when Bredesen rejected a slate of Supreme Court nominees and requested to be able to consider “qualified minority candidates.”
This afternoon, Bredesen said he did not think the judicial nominating panel “did a very good job on this,” especially in light of the high court battle.
“After all of the stuff we went through last summer and last fall, to be given a list of three more white people for a court that is entirely white at the moment, I would think that at least it’d be an opportunity to consider an African American. I would never appoint somebody based on the color of their skin, but I don’t know how we change that makeup unless you at least have some opportunities along the way.”
The three nominees the Judicial Selection Commission submitted to Bredesen were Andy Bennett, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Donald Capparella, a Nashville attorney, and Amy V. Hollars, a Livington attorney.
Bredesen said he didn’t know if he would reject the panel, which he can do once.
He said he may be inclined to if he had faith the selection commission would send him a minority candidate.
“History has not shown that’s the way they’ll act, however,” Bredesen said.
Black applicants for the Court of Appeals spot included Andrei Lee, a former General Sessions Court judge in Nashville and current administrative law judge, Russell Perkins, deputy state attorney general, and Stephanie Reevers, a member of the state’s claims commission.