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State Courts During COVID-19

Donna Simpson March 26, 2020

As a followup to the March 13 Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court suspending in-person court hearings in most circumstances, yesterday, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an Order providing that all Tennessee courts will remain open during the COVID-19 outbreak but most in-person proceedings through April 30, 2020, will remain suspended.

In addition to extending the suspension of most in-court proceedings to April 30, yesterday's Order also: instructs judges not to take action to move forward cases involving eviction, ejectment, or displacement except in exceptional circumstances; includes alternatives for notarizing documents; slightly modifies the list of exceptions to the suspension of in-person hearings; and clarifies that courthouses in Tennessee should remain open for essential hearings and filings, even if some entrances are closed or an appointment must be made to enter. In Putnam County, we are filing documents in probate court by calling into the Probate Court Clerk's office and dropping the documents off at the curb.

The Order strongly encourages court proceedings by telephone, video, teleconferencing, email, or other means that do not involve in-person contact. Additionally, the Court's Order suspends any Tennessee rule, criminal or civil, that limits a judge's or clerk's ability to utilize available technologies, including telephone conferences, video conferences, and video arraignments, that can help limit in-person contact. The Order does not affect a court's consideration of civil or criminal matters that can be resolved without an in-person proceedin