The Tennessee Supreme Court has extended the state of for the judicial branch of Tennessee following Gov. Bill Lee's renewal of Tennessee's state of emergency on Tuesday in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes the suspension of all jury trials through Feb. 26, subject only to exceptions which may be granted by the Chief Justice on a case-by-case basis.
In addition all in-person proceedings in all state and local courts in Tennessee, including but not limited to municipal, juvenile, general sessions, trial and appellate courts will be suspended will be suspended from the close of business on Monday, Dec. 28, through Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.
The supreme court has listed the following exceptions to the suspension of in-person court proceedings:
- Proceedings necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants, including bond-related matters, preliminary hearings for incarcerated individuals, and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals.
- Proceedings related to relief from abuse, including but not limited to orders of protection.
- Proceedings related to statutory order of protection hearings after entry of an ex parte order necessary to satisfy any due process concerns.
- Proceedings related to emergency child custody orders.
- Proceedings related to the voluntary surrender of parental rights.
- Settlements involving a minor or a person with a disability.
- Department of Children’s Services emergency matters related to child safety, placement, permanency or federal funding for children in foster care.
- Proceedings related to petitions for temporary injunctive relief.
- Proceedings related to emergency mental health orders.
- Proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons.
- Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Other exceptions as approved by the Chief Justice.
The order also outlines that the court system on all levels will continue to operate to the best of their ability by utilizing tools such as video and teleconferencing.
While the order, which was originally put into effect in March and has been renewed several time since, does limit capabilities of in-person operations due to the health crisis, it specifically states that "judges are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that core constitutional functions and rights are protected."