Tennessee Supreme Court orders provisions to suspend most in-person proceedings at local and state courts
By Caleb Revill
With regards to Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 70, the Supreme Court of Tennessee has adopted provisions that will suspend almost all in-person proceedings at both local and state courts from December 28, 2020 to January 29, 2021, subject to few exceptions.
According to a court order from the Supreme Court of Tennessee, courts including, but not limited to, municipal, juvenile, general sessions trial and appellate are to suspend in-person proceedings from December 28, 2020 to January 29, 2021. This is in response to record COVID-19 cases in the state.
On December 20, Lee signed Executive Order No. 70. This Executive Order encouraged Tennesseans to work from home where possible, further implemented social distancing guidelines and addressed social distancing measures for spectator sports and athletic activities.
The following are 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 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 presiding judge of each judicial district is authorized to determine the manner in which in-person proceedings for the exceptions listed above are to be conducted.
Permitted in-court proceedings are to be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, court clerks and other necessary persons as determined by the judge.