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Governor Sees 'Danger' In Ramsey Campaign Against Justices

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Governor Sees 'Danger' In Ramsey Campaign Against Justices

By Phil Williams. CREATED May 7, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he sees "danger" in an anticipated Republican attack on three state Supreme Court justices.

Still, the governor said he won't ask the man behind that effort to stop.

Haslam said he believes that Supreme Court justices are not just like other candidates and that political campaigns should not be new trials of old cases -- even though our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that's exactly what may be about to happen if Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey gets his way.

"I'm not going to be a part of that effort, I'll just put it that way," Haslam told reporters.

At issue: an effort by Ramsey to target the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Three justices appointed by former Governor Phil Bredesen face a yes-no vote in August over whether they should be retained, and Ramsey sees a chance for Republicans to seize control of the court.

Ramsey's office prepared a document, first revealed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, that suggests the justices could be targeted for supposedly being soft of crime.

And it lays out the possibility of using rulings in two death penalty cases against them.

"As judges, you are restricted in how you can respond to some things. So I think it's one of the dangers in having an election about specific issues when judges can't comment on those issues," Haslam said.

So why not condemn what Ramsey is doing?

"Lt. Gov. Ramsey has the full right to go do that and make his argument," Haslam said. "It's just not something that I'm going to be taking part in."

Those two death penalty cases both had serious problems, but the lieutenant governor told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he feels no obligation to tell that side of the story.

Asked whether he approves of those kinds of tactics, the governor sidestepped that question, saying that he had not seen those comments himself.

Haslam also said he has no plans to go out and defend the sitting justices either.

Ironically, if Ramsey succeeds in getting the three justices voted out, the governor would get to appoint the new justices.

Back to NC5 Investigates: The Politics of Justice
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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.