Over 60 days after Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Davis was confirmed and sworn into office. She resigned from her position on the state’s Sixth Circuit Court on July 31 and assumed office on the appellate court on August 3.
Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Lee appointed Davis on May 28, 2020, but her confirmation hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee state legislature suspended its legislative session this spring effective March 19 until June 1. The legislature then adjourned on June 19.
Had the legislature voted to confirm Davis upon returning to session in June, she would have been required to stand for retention election this month. Tennessee appellate judges are mandated to stand for retention election in the next general election occurring at least 30 days after the vacancy occurs, and general judicial elections in the state take place during the non-judicial primary in August.
The Tennessee courts reported that mail-in ballots for the August election had already been distributed and that it would have cost an additional $700,000 to send out ballots including Davis’ name. Tennessee law states that nominees not confirmed by the state legislature within 60 days are automatically confirmed the following day. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R) said of the decision to allow Davis to be automatically confirmed, “After talking about it and realizing that especially in these times of crunched budgets $700,000 is not an insignificant amount of money…What we decided to do would be to allow the nominee to be confirmed basically by default by us not acting.”
Judicial elections for the appellate court in Tennessee are held every two years in even-numbered years. Davis will thus stand for retention election in 2022, and her current term ends on August 31 of that year.