TOP PHOTO: Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sarah Keeton Campbell gave a presentation about the state’s Judicial system.

By Charlotte Underwood 

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sarah Keeton Campbell was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon at the LaFollette Methodist Church.

She is a Campbell County native and grew up in the Camp Ridge-Davis Chapel area of LaFollette until moving to Rogersville at the age of eleven. 

Gov. Bill Lee nominated Campbell to the Tennessee Supreme Court on January 12, 2022.  She was confirmed by the General Assembly and sworn in on February 10, 2022.

She was introduced by State Rep. Dennis Powers at Tuesday’s luncheon. 

“She is Campbell County’s first and only Tennessee Supreme Court Justice,” Powers said.

Campbell spoke about the Tennessee Supreme Court and the judiciary.

Before her program on the state’s court system, she took a moment to recognize Campbell County’s judiciary who were in attendance at the luncheon, General Sessions Judge Bill Jones and Criminal Court Judge Zach Walden.

“You all are very fortunate to have such a strong group of judges serving this county and I want to recognize you all for what you do, day in and day out; I know it’s not easy, so thank you for your service,” Justice Campbell said.

She gave a presentation over Tennessee’s Judicial system and the role it plays. 

“We have two court systems, federal courts and state courts. Federal Courts decide primarily issues of federal law but also adjudicate certain state-law issues that arise in cases falling within their “diversity jurisdiction… We are the final word on issues of controversy on state law,” Campbell said. 

Members of the current Tennessee Supreme Court are Chief Justice Holly Kirby, Justice Jeffrey Bivins, Justice Roger Page, who will soon be retiring, Justice Dwight Tarwater and Justice Sarah Campbell.

She also went over a brief history of Tennessee’s Supreme Court.

“It wasn’t until the 1834 constitution that established a Supreme Court in Tennessee, so that the legislature couldn’t just get rid of it,” Campbell said.

The constitution of 1870 expanded the court to five members, no more than two of whom could reside in any one grand division, and required to sit in Knoxville, Nashville and Jackson. Judges were popularly elected for eight year terms.

The constitution of 1870 also directed the court to appoint the attorney general. 

“That is a really unique provision. We are probably the only state in the country where the Supreme Court appoints the state’s attorney general,” Campbell said.

She went over criteria for the position. 

“When choosing the attorney general, we look at their legal experience, what kind of experience do they have managing a large law firm. There is a significant political element to the job as well….it’s a really important position for the state, and there is a lot of criteria to consider,” Campbell said.

She said the state Supreme Court had discretion on what cases they would accept. 

“Things that might cause us to take a case is usually if there is some confusion on the law, or if they might have two different opinions in appellate Court. Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 23 allows us to review certain questions of state law certified to us by federal courts,” Campbell said.

State Rep. Dennis Powers introduced Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sarah Keeton Campbell at Tuesday’s South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sarah Keeton Campbell gave a presentation about the state’s Judicial system.

The number of cases that get submitted to the Supreme Court are huge, but the number of cases they actually accept are much lower as they have judiciary discretion.

“In 2022, we granted two percent of applications. You have to try pretty hard to get our court to take the case,” Campbell explained. 

The Tennessee Supreme Court has limited mandatory jurisdiction reviews such as direct review of death penalty cases, redistricting challenges and workman’s compensation case appeals.

According to Campbell, there are several policy related changes that fall under the Supreme Court as well.

Other responsibilities of the Tennessee Supreme Court include rule making, regulation of the legal profession, other boards and commissions, supervision of the judicial branch, and appointment of the attorney general.

Campbell said it was wonderful to be back in Campbell County seeing “familiar faces.” She also thanked Rotary club members for their service and for “investing their time to make Campbell County better.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/03/2024-6AM)