Most state and local court proceedings have been suspended in Tennessee through the end of the month after a state of emergency was declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suspension of in-person proceedings in state and local courts applies to municipal, juvenile, general sessions, trial, and appellate courts. It started at the close of business on Friday, March 13, and continues through Tuesday, March 31, according to an order by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
There are exceptions, including proceedings that protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants such as bond-related hearings and plea agreements for people in jail; proceedings for relief from abuse, including orders of protection; proceedings for emergency child custody orders; Department of Children’s Services emergency matters related to protecting children; and proceedings related to petitions for emergency mental health orders, the emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable people, and the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Any in-court proceedings that are allowed will be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, and other necessary people, as determined by the trial judge.
All judges and court clerks are urged to limit in-person courtroom contact as much as possible by using, for example, alternative means of filing documents, teleconferencing, email communications, and video conferencing.
If it becomes necessary to close judges’ offices or court clerks’ offices while most operations are suspended, offices are to remain accessible by telephone and email to the extent possible during their regular possible hours. If available, drop boxes should be used for conventionally filed documents.
See the Tennessee Supreme Court order here.