Tennessee Supreme Court Establishes Multi-Phase Approach to Resuming Jury Trials and Mandates Facial Coverings
On March 13, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court declared a state of emergency for the Judicial Branch of Tennessee government and suspended all in-person proceedings in state and local courts through March 31, 2020. This suspension was extended by subsequent Orders through July 3, 2020. A May 26th Order eased restrictions on in-person hearings and allowed for jury trials to begin after July 3, 2020. The Court granted discretion to the individual Judicial Districts regarding further suspension of jury trials. An additional Order on July 9, 2020 mandated the use of facial coverings effective July 13, 2020.
The orders expressly do not prohibit court proceedings by telephone, video, teleconferencing, email, or other means that do not involve in-person contact. The orders do not affect courts’ consideration of matters that can be resolved without in-person proceedings. While courts may limit in-person contact with the public during this time period, should it be necessary to close judges’ and court clerks’ physical offices, the offices must remain accessible by telephone, e-mail and fax during regular business hours. If available, drop boxes should be used for conventionally filed documents. Any Tennessee state or local rule, criminal or civil, that impedes a judge’s or court clerk’s ability to utilize technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended. Additionally any emergent relief from criminal activity, child services, public health or involuntary commitment matters may still be heard.
Mediations, depositions and other discovery are not automatically postponed.
Adopting a similar stance, the United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Tennessee are instituting a multi-phase approach to resuming civil and criminal trials. The Western District of Tennessee has postponed civil and criminal jury selections and trials until August 28, 2020. The Courts further encourage that all non-essential proceedings scheduled or typically undertaken in-person should be continued or conducted by videoconference or telephone if available.
A copy of the Supreme Court Order may be found here.
A copy of the Western District Court Order may be found here.
A copy of the Middle District Court Order may be found here.
A copy of the Eastern District Court Order may be found here.
Courthouse closing information may be found here.
Questions? Contact one of MGC’s litigation attorneys.
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