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Democratic lawmakers, legal organizations condemn bill to remove Nashville judge over absentee vote ruling

March 2, 2021 – The Tennessean by: Mariah Timms – Leading legal organizations in Tennessee and Democratic lawmakers came to the defense Tuesday of an embattled Nashville judge targeted by Republicans over her decision in a voting rights case. 

The legal groups and lawmakers are standing behind Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, who came under fire from the state legislature last week when a Republican state lawmaker filed a resolution pushing to remove her from the bench over her 2020 ruling to expand absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The move drew condemnation from members of the legal community concerned it is a threat to the independence of the state’s judicial system. 

Tennessee Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, who chairs the House subcommittee on elections and campaign finance, said he filed the bill in response to Lyle’s 2020 ruling — an action he deemed as judicial overreach.

Local constitutional attorneys argue a judge disagreeing with the state is a regular occurrence and not grounds for termination. 

“Seeking to remove a sitting judge from office simply because the judge ruled a state statute was unconstitutional is unconstitutional in and of itself,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said at a news conference Tuesday. “We should never make a judge second guess a legal opinion and doing their job simply because of having to worry about the General Assembly removing them from office.”

Lyle has repeatedly declined to comment on the resolution.

The Nashville and Tennessee Bar Associations both released statements slamming Rudd’s bill and supporting Lyle. 

Nashville Bar Association president Mike Abelow called the bill a “dangerous attack on the independence of the Judiciary in Tennessee.” 

“Many of us in the Bar who practice before her and other judges strongly agree and disagree with different court decisions on a daily basis. That’s how our system works,” he wrote in an email Monday.



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