Tennessee Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Robby Starbuck, Political Parties Not Subject to Open Meetings Act

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Tennessee Republican Party (TRP) Friday, vacating the injunction ordering Robby Starbuck on the August Republican Primary ballot, and ruled that the TRP is not subject to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act (TOMA).

The Court stated that Chancery Court Judge Russell Perkins erred in his decision.

The Court said in the order:

This Court assumed jurisdiction over this case pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 48. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting an injunction to Plaintiff Robert Starbuck Newsom a/k/a Robby Starbuck because the Tennessee Open Meetings Act does not apply to the Defendants, the Tennessee Republican Party and the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee. Therefore, the order of the trial court granting the temporary injunction is vacated, and the case is remanded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this Opinion. All other matters are deemed moot.

(emphasis added)

Starbuck will not be a candidate on the August 4 Republican primary ballot, as the Court found that the Tennessee Republican Party did nothing wrong in exercising their right to determine his bona fide status.

“In finding a TOMA violation, the trial court ruled that state executive committees and state primary boards are “synonymous” under Title 2. We disagree,” said the Court in the decision.

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision further said:

Here, Defendants argue that the trial court erred in determining that TOMA applies to the TRP SEC. We agree. Title 2 of the Tennessee Code governs the elections of this state and provides that each political party shall have both a “state executive committee” and a “state primary board.” Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 2-13-102, 2-13-103 (2014). Various statutory provisions in Title 2 describe the responsibilities of the state executive committees, while other statutory provisions set forth the responsibilities of the state primary boards.

(emphasis added)

The Court additionally stated that political party state executive committees and primary boards are distinct and separate entities:

The plain language of the statutory scheme in Title 2 demonstrates that state executive committees and state primary boards are distinct entities with distinct responsibilities. Under Title 2, only the state primary boards, not the state executive committees, are required to comply with TOMA. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-108(a)(2) (2014) (“Meetings of each state primary board shall be open and subject to title 8, chapter 44.”); see also Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-113 (2014) (the meetings of boards and commissions established under Title 2 shall be open).3 Thus, the determinative issue is whether the TRP SEC was acting as a state primary board (subject to TOMA) or a state executive committee (not subject to TOMA) when it determined in a non-public meeting that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican.

The decision found that:

Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-13-104 provides that “a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-5-204(b)(2), a party’s state executive committee makes the determination of whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. Thus, the TRP SEC, by statute, was acting as a state executive committee, and not a state primary board, when it determined that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican. As a result, the TRP SEC did not violate TOMA by making that determination in a non-public meeting because it was not required to comply with TOMA.

The decision also said:

The Opinion of this Court is not subject to rehearing under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 39, and the Clerk is directed to certify the Opinion as final and to immediately issue the mandate. Costs on appeal are taxed to the Plaintiff, Robert Starbuck Newsom a/k/a Robby Starbuck, for which execution may issue if necessary.

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous.

According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, “JEFFREY S. BIVINS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROGER A. PAGE, C.J., and SHARON G. LEE, HOLLY KIRBY, and SARAH K. CAMPBELL, JJ., joined.”

Read the full opinion:

Read the court’s order:

– – –

Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTRTwitter, and Parler.

 

Related posts

9 Thoughts to “Tennessee Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Robby Starbuck, Political Parties Not Subject to Open Meetings Act”

  1. C-Riv

    Starbuck should have reigned himself in when he was initially told that he did not qualify under existing Tennessee rules. His failure to do so, and his juvenile, tantrum-like behavior since finding out that he didn’t qualify, has tainted him for any future runs for office. There might still be a few steadfast followers, but I think most who may have been interested in him have seen his antics and felt bewildered by him. This is not the behavior of a serious contender. These were the actions of a petulant child, and because of that reason alone, I believe that any future runs for office in our state will find him falling flat on his face before he’s even out of the gate. Had he just accepted the rules, and played by them, he might not now be seen as the pariah that he has become. Not such a good way to start a political career, Robby!

    1. Steve Morley

      Totally. Thanks for saving me from having to compose a comment.

  2. C. RIVERA

    Starbuck should have reigned himself in when he was initially told that he did not qualify under existing Tennessee rules. His failure to do so, and his juvenile, tantrum-like behavior since finding out that he didn’t qualify, has tainted him for any future runs for office. There might still be a few steadfast followers, but I think most who may have been interested in him have seen his antics and felt bewildered by him. This is not the behavior of a serious contender. These were the actions of a petulant child, and because of that reason alone, I believe that any future runs for office in our state will find him falling flat on his face before he’s even out of the gate. Had he just accepted the rules, and played by them, he might not now be seen as the pariah that he has become. Not such a good way to start a political career, Robby!

  3. John Bumpus

    Last night (6-9-22) the nation watched (if it was inclined to do so, and I must admit that I could NOT bring myself to watch that travesty of justice any further—I have long since had ‘enough’ of that biased, partisan kangaroo court crowd whose principal goal is to prevent President Trump, by any means possible, from running again for the presidency in 2024) two RINO Republicans, or in the words of the Tennessee Supreme Court opinion in this case, individuals who are not bona fide Republicans, do their darnedest to misrepresent and deceive at every turn to accomplish their goal.

    Republicans everywhere have had ‘enough’ of people who run for political office and lie, claiming to be one thing, only to learn later after these candidates have been elected that they really are something else entirely. Republicans are rightly concerned about RINO Republicans (or in the present vernacular, fake Republicans) who are anything but representative of the people of the political party who elected them. Republicans are rightly concerned about trying to impose some minimum degree of political bona fides to try to prevent this problem from ever occurring in the first place.

    I commend the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in this case. The people of Tennessee everywhere just cannot afford to continue to be misled by people seeking public office who care only about themselves and will do anything to win and hold public office by any means possible—just like the two now obviously fake Republicans first mentioned above.

    1. 83ragtop50

      I would definitely include Mr. Lee in that grouping.

    2. JAMESB

      THE ONLY PART OF IT I SAW WAS BITS AND PIECES ON NEWSMAX.YOUR RIGHT ON.

  4. Aries9899

    Thank goodness. This fiasco is over. Time for Robby Starbuck to try and repair the damage to his name and reputation in Middle TN. At least I won’t have to see him whining and acting superior to the TN GOP on different news shows now.

  5. midtngal

    Robbie, please get this through your thick skull…we are not that into you! Trying to force the law to bend for you is not going to get you anywhere! Why can’t you just follow the rules like everyone else?

  6. JB Taylor

    Good. Another win for conservatives. If he is a true republican he whill have other opportunities after we see his established voting record.

Comments