Supreme Court

TN Supreme Court: Evictions can resume next week, jury trials in July

The state Supreme Court has decreed that eviction proceedings can once again be heard starting on Monday and that jury trials can resume in July.

Here’s the full release from the state’s highest court:

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an Order that extends the judicial state of emergency and eases restrictions imposed by previous court orders. These changes include allowing jury trials to begin after July 3 with strict protocols; allows eviction cases to be heard beginning June 1; ends deadline extensions; and allows local judicial districts to continue operating under their approved plans for expanded in-person proceedings. The Order continues to encourage remote proceedings via video or audio conference whenever possible.  

Today’s Order allows jury trials to begin after July 3, 2020, if strict social distancing and capacity protocols can be met and CDC guidelines are followed. The Order also provides for six-person juries in civil cases unless a twelve-person jury is specifically requested by a party.  

Deadlines in court rules, statutes, and administrative rules that were previously extended until May 31 are extended only until June 5. After this date, the Supreme Court does not anticipate any further extension of deadlines. “The point of extending deadlines was to give judges, attorneys, and litigants time to adjust to this new normal and weather this storm a bit,” Chief Justice Bivins said. “But, extensions cannot go on indefinitely. Judges, of course, can extend deadlines on an individual basis when permissible.”

The Order also lifts the broad restrictions on evictions. As of June 1, eviction cases may be heard if the landlord states under penalty of perjury that the action is not subject to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

The Supreme Court issued an order on April 24 that allowed judicial districts to expand in-person proceedings if the Supreme Court approved a plan submitted by the district addressing such issues as social distancing, limiting access to the courtroom, and other strategies designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 as much as possible. The majority of judicial districts are now operating under those approved plans, which are available on the TNCourts.gov website. Judicial districts that did not submit a plan are continuing to operate under the parameters set forth in the March 25 Order. 

“For now, each court will continue to operate under their approved plan or the March 25 Order,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said. “Our top priority throughout the pandemic has been ensuring courts remain open and accessible for Tennesseans. We have worked diligently with local officials to ensure that emergency orders of protection, bond hearings, custody hearings, and other critical matters can be heard promptly. We have had to balance access to the courts with the health and safety of all participants and workers in the judicial system.

Over the past ten weeks, courts across Tennessee have continued to utilize technology to keep courts open and accessible. Dozens of courts have held their first remote proceedings via video conference, and proceedings have been live-streamed to YouTube for the first time. For example, the Tennessee Supreme Court held oral arguments via video conference twice, including a live-stream, the Court of Appeals held oral arguments via video conference, and the 20th Judicial District Chancery Court conducted hearings in a school voucher case via video conference over multiple days. In total, over 700 video proceedings have taken place on Zoom licenses managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts since the middle of April. Some counties and individual judges have also purchased their own video conferencing tools that are not managed by the AOC.

“While there certainly are some challenges, many judges are finding a lot of efficiencies and advantages to deploying remote proceedings in certain circumstances,” Chief Justice Bivins said. “Sometimes great innovation comes out of crisis and that is what is happening across the Tennessee judiciary.”

As with the previous Orders related to Covid-19, today’s Order applies to all state and local courts across Tennessee, including state circuit and chancery courts, general sessions courts, juvenile courts, and municipal courts.

The Order is available here

Tennessee Supreme Court to livestream oral arguments

The Tennessee Supreme Court plans to livestream oral arguments for the first time on Tuesday. While audio and video of proceedings have been posted online in the past, it was with a delay of up to two days.

Because of limitations on in-person attendance in the courtroom due to COVID-19, the state’s highest court is now broadcasting the hearings on its YouTube page in real time.

Here’s the release from the courts:

The Tennessee Supreme Court remains committed to keeping Tennessee courts open while protecting the health and safety of all parties.  Due to the continued concerns regarding COVID-19, the cases set for the May 19, 2020 docket will be heard by livestream video conferencing.  This is one of the many efforts the Court has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to prioritize the health and well-being of all litigants, attorneys, judges, and employees of the court system. 

(Details of the cases after the jump)

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Supreme Court declines to take up appeal of abortion amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that upheld the outcome of 2014 vote on a constitutional amendment to give state lawmakers more power to restrict abortion rights in Tennessee, The Tennessean reports.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld the state’s tabulating method. The Tennessee Constitution declares amendments require not just a simple majority, but a “majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor.”

Plaintiffs argued that only ballots cast by those who had voted in both the gubernatorial election and amendment referendum should be counted (rather than the state’s longtime standard of using the equivalent number of votes).

 

Former Chief Justice Anderson passes away at 85

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice E. Riley Anderson passed away last week at the age of 85. He served on the state’s highest court from 1990 to 2006.

“I guess other people are going to select how you’re going to be remembered,” Anderson once said. “But I’d like to be remembered as somebody who was fair and honest and worked hard at the job.”

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Supreme Court chief thanks legislators for authorizing three new judges

Press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation this session funding three new judge positions in Tennessee. The new positions will be in the state’s 19th Judicial District, which serves Montgomery and Robertson counties; the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties; and the 21st Judicial District, which includes Hickman, Lewis, Perry, and Williamson counties.

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Retired TN Supreme Court Justice Frank Drowota dies, age 79

Frank F. Drowota III, who served 25 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court before retiring in 2006, has died at age 79.

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Supreme Court declares Nashville mayor’s election to be held in May, not August

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn.  The Tennessee Supreme Court held today that Metro Nashville must hold a special election to fill the Office of Mayor. The decision reversed a ruling of the Davidson County Chancery Court that upheld the action of the Davidson County Election Commission (“Commission”) in setting the election to coincide with the August 2, 2018 election. Under state law, the Commission now must set a special election to be held between May 21 and May 25, 2018.

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AG says proposed anti-discrimination rule for lawyers is unconstitutional

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery is formally opposing a proposed change to professional conduct rules for lawyers that he contends would violate the constitutional free speech rights of Tennessee attorneys, reports the Nashville Post.

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Supremes will decide date for Nashville mayor election

The Tennessee Supreme Court decided today to resolve a dispute over when Nashville’s election of a new mayor should take place. The Metropolitan Nashville City Council has set the vote for Aug. 2, but a lawsuit contends the vote on a full-time successor to Megan Barry, who resigned in a sex scandal, should be in May.

A lower court judge decided the August date should stand, but that was appealed with a request that the Supreme Court take up the matter promptly. In an order issued today, the Supreme Court agreed to do so and set a hearing for April 9.

The court order is HERE. Previous post HERE.

TN Supreme Court rejects AG request for eight early executions; schedules two for later this year

The Tennessee Supreme Court has denied the state attorney general’s request to move up eight execution dates before June 1, reports the Associated Press. Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed the requests Feb. 5 and cited “ongoing difficulty” getting lethal injection drugs.

The court on Thursday did set execution dates for two of the inmates, Oct. 11 for Edmund Zagorski, who was convicted of two murders, and Dec. 6 for David Earl Miller, who was convicted of murdering a mentally disabled woman.

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