COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Open Courts and Limited Suspension

Please see below for information  about the Tennessee Supreme Court's Limited Suspension Orders affecting "in-person" court proceedings.

To see the specific Criminal Court protocols, please click here

Open Courts

Are the Criminal Courts open?

Yes, the Criminal Courts remain open, though some proceedings are limited.  On March 13, 2020 , the Supreme Court ordered a limited suspension of some “in-person” court proceedings.  By separate orders entered in April and May, the Supreme Court has allowed most in-person proceedings to occur subject to specifically approved protocols

On May 6, 2020, the Supreme Court approved a plan developed by the Hamilton County Criminal Court to continue operations under special procedures.  By virtue of a later Supreme Court Order, operations under this approved plan will continue for the foreseeable future.   

Absent unforeseen circumstances, the Criminal Court judges will be present and available in the office during the Suspension Period.

How long is the Suspension Period?

Although in-person proceedings are no longer prohibited, these proceedings are discouraged and significantly limited.  Until further order by the Supreme Court, the Criminal Courts will continue to operate under its approved protocols.   

Why did the Supreme Court suspend some “in-person” proceedings?

As the Chief Justice originally noted, the goal of the Suspension Period is “to limit the number of people coming into court each day while continuing to meet our duty and administer justice.” 

Indeed, the Chief Justice correctly observed that “[p]ublic spaces in courthouses tend to be small, tightly packed bench seats that provide the type of situations public health officials have encouraged people to avoid during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Thus, in issuing its original March 13 order and its supplemental orders on March 25, April 24, and May 26, the Supreme Court has responsibly struck “a balance in limiting the public’s exposure to the virus with continuing essential court functions judges must provide to ensure the administration of justice.”

What does the latest Supreme Court’s Suspension Order say?

In general, the original March 13, 2020 Supreme Court order suspended “[a]ll in-person proceedings in all state and local courts in Tennessee,” subject to some critical exceptions. 

Beginning on May 6, however, the Supreme Court gave permission for the courts in Hamilton County to conduct additional "in-person" proceedings under certain restrictions.  Except for jury trials, for example, the Criminal Court is authorized to hold various types of “in-person” hearings where those hearings can be conducted consistent with its approved safety protocols.

That said, the Supreme Court has encouraged trial courts "to conduct as much business as possible by means other than in-person court proceedings."  To that end, the preference of the Second Division is to continue holding proceedings through telephone or video conferencing where appropriate.