Nashville, Tenn.—Gov. Phil Bredesen said Monday that his rejection of a slate of Supreme Court candidates for lack of a minority finalist does not mean he will necessarily choose a black applicant from the next three-person list.
But the governor said it was unacceptable to have to choose among two white candidates following the withdrawal last week of the lone black finalist, Davidson County Chancellor Richard Dinkins.
Bredesen last week became the first governor to reject a panel of Supreme Court finalists since the state’s “Tennessee Plan” for judicial selection went into effect in 1994.
“I’d be very uncomfortable with the notion of having a panel that had no minority candidates on it, and I would certainly like to see one or two on the next panel,” Bredesen said Monday.
The only black member of the Supreme Court, Adolpho A. Birch Jr., is retiring at the end of August, as is Justice E. Riley Anderson.
“I think the primary concern is always finding the very best people,” Bredesen said. “But I genuinely think that there are members of minorities _ and specifically African Americans with Justice Birch leaving _ who I think would be very highly qualified for the job.”
Bredesen stopped short of saying the next Supreme Court justice will be black.
“I’m not saying that I would automatically appoint the minority candidate,” he said. “I’m just uncomfortable with a panel on which there are none.”