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Ramsey Wrong About Claim Of Reprimand Against Chief Justice

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Ramsey Wrong About Claim Of Reprimand Against Chief Justice

By Phil Williams. CREATED May 23, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a serious accusation made by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey against Tennessee's top judge -- a claim that Chief Justice Gary Wade was disciplined by the board that polices the ethics of the state's judges.

Now, that board says Ramsey's claim just isn't true.

Wade is one of three Supreme Court justices whom Ramsey would like to see voted out in August. Two weeks ago, the lieutenant governor suggested to reporters that Wade got into trouble for trying to influence a commission that made recommendations on whether the state's appellate judges should should keep their jobs.

"And the Supreme Court justice himself got involved in that publicly, which I think is against their canons and I think was reprimanded if not censured over that," Ramsey said.

That claim was picked up by conservative bloggers who suggested the court was stonewalling requests about the chief justice's ethics.

At issue are comments that Wade made to a newspaper reporter back in November, expressing his belief that all of the current appellate judges are qualified to serve.

"I did not try to influence them," Ramsey said. "He did try to influence them and somehow you are asking me is that the right thing. Ask him."

But the Board of Judicial Conduct released a statement to NewsChannel 5 late Friday, acknowledging that it had opened internal investigation after receiving an anonymous complaint.

Still, the board's "Disciplinary Counsel determined that the Chief Justice's comments were not a public endorsement of a candidate for public office intended to influence voters in the eventual election. This would not be a a violation of the Rules of Judicial Conduct."

As result, the complaint against Wade was dismissed.

In an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the chief justice defended his actions.

"I was called upon to ask about the work product of our judges and when that work product is good it seems to me that the role of the chief justice requires a positive comment upon the quality of the work."

The actual letter to the judge does caution that he should "be aware" of how such comments might be perceived.

But no violation was found, and no action was taken.

As for the blogger's claim that the Supreme Court was stonewalling, he sent his request for information to the board that regulates attorneys, not the one that regulates judges.

Those are two separate boards.

The board that regulates judges freely provided NewsChannel 5 Investigates with the letter that it sent to Chief Justice Wade. (Read the statement, letter.)

 

 

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.