courthouse

House lawmakers are taking a new direction on the proposed “super chancery court.”

Amended in the House Finance Committee on Monday, the legislation would now create a “court of special appeals” to handle appeals in litigation related to the constitutionality of state actions. The new court would have original jurisdiction only in cases involving redistricting.

The original proposal, which is still alive in the Senate and could force a compromise between the two bodies, would have created a new statewide chancery court with original jurisdiction in constitutional challenges. In the new House version, the three special appeals judges would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature but would face a retention election every eight years rather than face open regular election as originally contemplated.

A spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus said the House changes are “still under consideration” by Senate sponsor Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville)

House sponsor Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) called the new amendment “a much cleaner version” of the proposal. The new proposal also bars former members of the Tennessee General Assembly and former governors from holding the new judgeships.

House and Senate Republicans have sought this year to weaken the role of the Davidson County Chancery Court, which is typically made up of Democrats elected by Nashville voters and holds original jurisdiction in most constitutional challenges.

The House and Senate already approved $2 million in funding for the new court, which would include a judge from each of the state’s three Grand Divisions as well as clerks and assistants. Lawmakers nearly doubled their initial allocation after the Administrative Office of the Courts said it would cost more to run the court than the legislature predicted.

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