New Tennessee Bill Aims To Remind Inferior Courts Of Their Constitutional Boundaries

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –

A bill being proposed this session will attempt to address the issues that seemed to plague the Tennessee General Assembly during the special session this past summer, and even somewhat during the regular session of last year.

House Bill 1652 (HB1652), sponsored by Representative Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood-District 61), aims to serve as a reminder to inferior courts that they have no subject matter jurisdiction when it comes to rules and procedures in the House and Senate of the General Assembly. 

HB1652 states, “As introduced, declares that no circuit, chancery, or other court has subject matter jurisdiction over any legal action, challenging any rule, regulation, or procedure of the senate or house of representatives. – Amends TCA Title 16.” 

The bill was written to address the issue the General assembly faced when citizens opposing some of the proposed legislation carried large protest signs into hearing rooms, creating an atmosphere that legislators described as “disruptive”. 

Those protestors were removed from the hearing rooms, and there was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU asserting that to eject citizens because they were carrying signs was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights. Davidson County Chancellor Anne Martin issued a temporary restraining order blocking The House from enforcing their rule. 

A list of new rules was passed specifically for the special session, whose primary focus was public safety due to recent acts of gun violence. Such a subject typically evokes strong emotional responses in people, which then can tend to interfere in the business that the legislature is endeavoring to accomplish. 

According to reports, Bulso, a practicing attorney said, “No trial court judge anywhere in the state has the power to interfere with the rules that the House adopts.. if there’s some claim that there’s a violation of the First Amendment, that should go directly to the federal district court.”

The Tennessee Conservative reached out to Bulso, who responded by emphasizing that point, specifically regarding the order from the Davidson County Chancellor, and their presumption of subject matter jurisdiction. 

Bulso said “because she thought she did, (have subject matter jurisdiction), I put together a bill that makes it expressly clear, by statute, that no circuit, chancery or other inferior court has subject matter jurisdiction over any action challenging a rule of either the House or the Senate, so we put this together pursuant to that constitutional section”.

Bulso was referring to Article 6 section 8 of the Tennessee State Constitution that states, “The jurisdiction of the Circuit, Chancery and other Inferior Courts, shall be as now established by law, until changed by the Legislature.”  

In other words, the legislature itself informs the inferior courts where exactly their subject matter jurisdiction lies, and not the other way around, since the inferior courts are in fact a creation of the legislature. 

When asked about what the process would be if there is a perceived violation of civil rights, and if there should be something added to the bill to articulate that process, Bulso said, “ the way that would work, is if somebody perceived  that a house rule violated for example, their 1st Amendment rights, then that person would file a case in federal district court, under 42 USC Section 1983, which is the civil rights statute, stating the State of Tennessee has violated their rights. And the federal district court could either rule on it, or there’s a process for the federal district court to certify that question to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which would then decide it.” 

In an era where we have seen rogue actions on the part of what could be described as “activist jurists” who with regularity disregard the state and federal constitution, either out of ignorance or just plain hubris, codifying the boundaries by which they must abide might be necessary.

The bill currently has no co-sponsor from the Senate side of the General Assembly and was assigned yesterday to the House Public Service Subcommittee for their review and a vote. 

We will continue to follow the bill as it makes its way through the legislative process and report.

About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member.  Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at kelly@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

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