The Center Square

The Center Square Again Files First Amendment Motion to Open Tennessee Judicial Decision-Making Meetings

July 8, 2022

(The Center Square)—The Center Square has filed a second motion for a preliminary injunction to open the meetings of the state’s bench-bar advisory commission, the second such First Amendment motion in a case filed by the nonprofit’s executive editor.

The new motion, filed by the Liberty Justice Center on behalf of The Center Square Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, was filed after McCaleb learned that the advisory commission would be meeting to recommend rules of practice and procedure in state courts. The commission is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

“There is an enduring historical tradition for nearly 34 years of public access to meetings of bench-bar Advisory Committees on proposed federal rules of practice, procedure, and evidence,” the motion reads.

While the Tennessee bench-bar commission meetings are closed to the public and press, similar meetings related to federal courts are open, the motion says.

The Liberty Justice Center said it expects the motion to be fully briefed by July 21 and, after that, a judge can rule on the matter.

The Center Square filed a similar motion in the case in early June before the Tennessee Judicial Conference but, at a hearing, representatives for Director of Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts Michelle Long agreed that no rulemaking or recommending of legislation would be involved in those meetings.

After that pact, however, The Center Square learned that rulemaking would be made at the closed bench-bar advisory committee meetings, which led to the new motion for a preliminary injunction.

“McCaleb further seeks prospective injunctive relief against Director Long to end closed bench-bar advisory commission meetings and the ongoing and continuing violation of his First Amendment right of access to assign reporters to report on future meetings of the Tennessee bench-bar advisory commission established to recommend rules,” the amended complaint reads.

“Appointed advisory governmental bodies make recommendations on proposed court rules and policies that directly affect everyday Tennesseans,” McCaleb said. “I am continuing with this lawsuit to ensure that these meetings are transparent and open to the public and press.”