Evaluation of Applicants for Tennessee Supreme Court Vacancy

Governor Lee has nominated Sarah Campbell, Assistant Solicitor General in the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Cornelia Clark. The following information is intended to help you discharge your duty as a citizen regarding the filling of this vacancy.

The Process for Filling a Vacancy

By law, the legislature will have 60 calendar days from the date on which the nomination was made to affirm or reject General Campbell. If the legislature does not act within that time, she will be confirmed by default.

Why Your Input is So Important

Supreme courts often purport to make law for the whole state (or nation in the case of SCOTUS) instead of just resolving disputes between the parties in the courtroom (e.g. consider judges who effectively re-wrote early voting statutes, created a “right” to abortion in our state constitution, etc.).

Therefore, it is imperative that citizens understand how General Campbell understand the nature of the judicial power. For example, does she see the other two branches of government as equal and independent or are the legislative and executive branches subservient to the judgments and opinions of the Tennessee and United States Supreme Courts? To what degree, if any, does she show respect for our system of dual sovereigns or will she abdicate our state’s sovereignty to judgments entered by the United States Supreme Court resolving disputes about the law as if those judgments were law for everyone.

Surveying the Potential Nominees

In partnership with Eagle Forum of Tennessee, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Tennessee Independent Baptist for Religious Liberty, Bott Radio Network (Tennessee), and Tennessee Conservative Christians, the Center for Constitutional Government (“CGDF”), a division of Alliance for Law and Liberty, sent this questionnaire to each of the nominees. The survey was sent by means of this cover letter.

Evaluation of sarah campbell

General Campbell did not acknowledge the survey, let alone answer even basic questions pertaining to her judicial philosophy and the nature of the judicial power asked by those who represent thousands of Tennessee and over whom she will sit as judge. If she is nominated, it would seem to be imperative that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, to discharge their duties to the constituents, hold confirmation hearings and not let her nomination be “affirmed” by default.  The public needs to have an opportunity to learn something of her views since she will sit as judge over them.

That being said, the Constitutional Government Defense Fund had an opportunity to communicate with General Campbell in connection with her work defending the “laddered” abortion bill proposed by Governor Lee and enacted in 2020. 

In that regard, General Campbell demonstrated a receptivity to learning about the important role the Ninth Amendment is supposed to play in the interpretation of enumerated rights. She consented to and expressed appreciation for CGDF making a Ninth Amendment based argument in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of legislators in support of the abortion law.  

She also demonstrated appreciation for another Ninth Amendment based amicus brief recently filed with the United States Supreme Court. In that brief, the Ninth Amendment was used to highlight the Court’s misconstruction of the First Amendment’s provision regarding the “freedom of the press.”

General Campbell has demonstrated a growing awareness of the role the common law is constitutionally required to play in the interpretation of the U,.S. Constitution.

General Campbell served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito who is one of the better justices on that Court, having acknowledge that the modern Court has been unable “to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority.” Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2643(2015) (Alito, J., dissenting).

While arguments based on association are often unwise, we believe General Campbell’s record to date would indicate that she holds a view of the judicial power more akin to that of Justice Alito than that held by Chief Justice John Roberts and those to his left on the Court.



Subscribe to Email Updates


Donate to FACT

Make a Donation