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VOL. 37 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 08, 2013




Limited approach taken to judicial redistricting

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Monday gave his proposal for redrawing Tennessee's judicial districts for the first time since 1984.

The Blountville Republican's plan would affect just eight of the existing 31 judicial districts. Ramsey said the plan had drawn the support of the association representing the state's trial judges, who as recently as last week had opposed changing the current judicial map.

"We respect above all else the prerogative of the General Assembly to decide the judicial districts," said Gary Wade, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. "In one regard we are in perfect harmony, and that is to deliver to the people of Tennessee an accountable judiciary, one that works as efficiently as possible."

The proposal would create separate judicial districts for Rutherford and Williamson counties because of population growth in the Nashville suburbs over the last three decades.

Two judicial distri cts in northeastern Tennessee made up of Lake, Dyer, Obion and Weakley county would be merged into a single district. Meanwhile, Coffee County would cease to have its own district and instead be folded into one with Cannon, Warren and Van Buren counties.

Ramsey said the plan was limited by not wanting to hurt grants and working groups like drug task forces that are based on the judicial districts.

"If you look at the plan we have here, I think it has minimal disruption," he said. "There was an aggressive plan that we began with, but that was just a working blueprint."

Ramsey said the changes are not expected to affect the positions of existing judges, but that the elimination of two judicial districts will eliminate the positions of two prosecutors and public defenders.

Ramsey estimated the cost savings of eliminating those four positions would be more than $600,000. A complete analysis on the overall cost or savings of the changes has yet to be conduc ted, he said.

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