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HERBERT SLATERY, III SWORN IN ON WEDNESDAY
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 3, 2014) — On September 15, the Tennessee Supreme Court named Herbert Slatery III, who was chief legal counsel to Gov. Bill Haslam, to succeed Robert E. Cooper, Jr. as the state’s attorney general for the next eight years.
Slatery was sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee on Wednesday.
Tennessee is the only state in the nation whose attorney general is appointed by the state supreme court. The position has been occupied by a Democrat since 1870 after Thomas M. Coldwell left office and the constitution was changed, making the attorney general an appointed rather than an elected position.
Cooper had asked that he be considered for a second eight-year term and was reported as one of the semi-finalists by The Tennessean on September 11. Cooper’s office had ignored reports of widespread judicial corruption, land-grabbing, prisoners-for-profit operations and possible murder and determined last year that the conduct of former Tenth Judicial District chief prosecutor Robert Steven Bebb did not rise to the level of criminal activity in Bebb’s operation of the area Drug Task Force.
However, there is adequate evidence of systemic corruption on the part of Bebb, former Tenth Judicial District Judges Amy Reedy and Carroll Lee Ross, and their appointed grand jury foremen in McMinn and Monroe Counties in the routine railroading of defendants into jail without proper evidence, police reports, or a criminal complaint, including in the cases of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III and Marvin William Young.
Cooper’s assistant, Kyle Hixson, had written that which The Post & Email termed “the Hixson Brief” which contended that grand jury foremen in Tennessee are appointed by the criminal court judge and do not serve as jurors, despite the fact that they vote with the grand jury on whether or not to indict a person suspected of having committed a crime. Many Tennessee grand jury foremen have served for years or even decades as an employee of the judge.
On Friday, The Post & Email contacted Cooper’s office and spoke with a person in the media office, who said that she would respond to us as to exactly when Slatery will take office if he has not already done so. Why an answer was not immediately available was not made clear. When we were asked if we had a deadline, we said, “today.”
Earlier reports said that Cooper’s term would end on October 31. He was sworn in on November 1, 20o6, when his term began. The Post & Email suspects that Cooper is no longer in office.
Leading up to the August local elections in Tennessee, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey had attempted to convince voters not to retain three Democrat state supreme court justices. In a questionably unconstitutional move, the legislature passed a law creating a Judicial Nominating Commission which “handpicks” three candidates at a time to the governor, who then chooses one or passes on all to request a new list.
The Tennessee constitution states that “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state … The Judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other Inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.”
Fitzpatrick has called the judicial law-breaking routine in Tennessee courts “the dictatorship of the judiciary.” The legislature, including Ramsey, has participated in taking away the power of the people to vote directly for candidates for judicial positions as is stated in the constitution. The legislature has also passed laws protecting judges from liability for misconduct, illegal activity, unconstitutional imprisonment of defendants and other crimes.
Both Haslam and his predecessor have worked to rescind the rights of voters to elect judges as their state constitution dictates. A referendum question on whether or not to approve “The Tennessee Plan” of the governor’s selection of appellate and higher-level judicial candidates will appear on the November ballot. In 1977, voters rejected such a constitutional amendment.