Local Rules of Practice

The practice and procedure of the Hamilton County Criminal Court are governed chiefly by the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.  However, other matters are also governed by the Court's own Local Rules of Practice.     

Note:  As permitted by Local Rule 1, the Second Division uses scheduling orders that may establish deadlines other than those set forth in the Local Rules.  For more information, click here.     

Rule 1. Adoption, Citation, Purpose, and Suspension of Local Rules of Practice     

Effective 1 September 2007, the Criminal Court of the Eleventh Judicial District (Hamilton County), Tennessee, abrogates all existing local rules of practice and adopts these rules. Citations to these rules may be in the form “L. R. Crim. P.”

The purpose of these rules is to facilitate the just determination of every criminal proceeding in this Court by securing simplicity in procedure and fairness in administration and eliminating unjustifiable expense and delay and unnecessary claims on the time of jurors.      

A judge may suspend the rules as justice requires or enter a scheduling order in a particular case that sets deadlines other than those set forth herein.

[Note: The Second Division uses scheduling orders in all cases that will establish deadlines different from those set forth in these Rules.  For more information on the scheduling of cases, please click here.]

Rule 2. Grand Juries         

Each judge shall preside over the grand jury for a term of four (4) months each year. At the beginning of each term, the presiding judge shall empanel two grand juries, a regular jury and a concurrent jury. The grand juries shall serve for the entire term, unless they are discharged earlier. During the term, the presiding judge shall have exclusive jurisdiction of cases before the grand jury.         

[Note:  The Divisions empanel the Grand Juries on the following schedule:

  • January  - April :  Second Division
  • May - August:  First Division
  • September - December:  Third Division]

The first session of each grand jury shall begin on the day it is impaneled and continue until it completes its assignment and reports to the presiding judge. Thereafter, it shall convene at least one day each week, as designated by the presiding judge, and continue in session until it completes its assignment and reports to the presiding judge.         

Subject to the direction of the presiding judge, the clerk shall schedule cases within two weeks when possible but, in any event, as soon as possible after the office of the clerk receives the bound-over warrant. Jail cases shall receive priority.

Rule 3. Allocation of Cases         

As the grand jury reports, the clerk shall alphabetize all indictments and presentments by the name of the defendant or, in cases involving multiple defendants, by the name of the first defendant and enter the cases in a program that numbers the cases and allocates them among the three divisions of the Court. If a single defendant has multiple cases or multiple indictments or presentments charge different defendants with the same offense or with offenses arising from the same transaction, the program shall group all indictments or presentments for the defendant or defendants with the lowest-numbered case and thereafter treat the group as a single case for the purpose of allocation.      

With the exception of requests for extraordinary relief, which shall be resolved by the judge to whom the request is directed, the three divisions of the Court shall share equally the responsibility of hearing non-jury and appeal cases. The clerk shall docket all non-jury and appeal cases not otherwise provided for in these rules in the order in which they are received and shall allocate such cases weekly, with each division receiving every third case. In the event that a single defendant has multiple cases, the clerk shall treat all cases for that defendant as a single case for the purpose of allocation.

After the allocation of new cases, the clerk shall prepare an arraignment docket for each division of the Court. Each arraignment docket shall contain all new cases for that division as well as any other cases restored to the docket by the apprehension of the defendant or another event, all cases continued or specially set, and all non-jury and appeal cases not otherwise set.       

Rule 4. Management of Cases         

At arraignment, the court will assign a court date for plea or further assignment of the case.  For good cause, the court may assign additional plea or assignment dates. At the final plea or assignment date, if the defendant does not plead, the court will set the case for trial.

[Note:  For more information on the scheduling of cases in the Second Division, please click here.]

Once a case is set for trial, the court will not accept any settlement except for good cause, which shall be brought to the court’s attention as soon as practicable before the trial date(s). On the trial date, the case may be resolved only by trial, the state’s motion for dismissal with prejudice, or the defendant’s plea of guilty to the charge(s).         

For good cause, the court may grant a continuance. Whether absence of a witness is such cause depends on compliance with provisions of Rule 9 of these rules and Tenn. R. Crim. P. 17 regarding subpoenas. At the time of any continuance, the court will assign a new trial date.         

Rule 5. Schedules         

Jury trials will usually be set to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday or Thursday. Non-jury matters will usually be heard as follows:         

First Division:      

  • Arraignments and assignments: 8:30 a.m., Wednesday; 9:00 a.m., Friday; 
  • Bench trials: Designated hour, Monday through Thursday;
  • Motions: 9:00 a.m., Monday;
  • Pre-trial conferences: Designated hour, Monday through Thursday;
  • Suspensions of sentence: 9:00 a.m., Monday;      

Second Division:      

  • Arraignments and assignments: 8:30 a.m., Friday;      
  • Bench trials: 1:30 p.m., Monday; 
  • Drug Recovery Court: 1:30 p.m., Monday;
  • Motions: 8:30 a.m., Monday;      
  • Settlements: 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday;   and

    [Note:  In practice, the Second Division has altered the schedule set forth in the local rules.  Generally, the Second Division operates as follows: 

  • Arraignments:  8:30 a.m., Friday 
  • Bench Trials:  1:30 p.m., Tuesday - Thursday
  • Drug Recovery Court Docket:  1:30 p.m., Monday
  • Informal Discussion on Cases:  9:00 a.m., Monday
  • Jury Trials:  9:00 a.m., Tuesday - Thursday
  • Motion Hearings:  Specially set at 10:30 a.m., Monday;  9:15 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., Tuesday - Thursday; or 1:00 p.m., Friday
  • Plea or Resolution:  9:00 a.m., Tuesday - Thursday

Third Division:    

  • Arraignments and assignments: 9:00 a.m., Friday;      
  • Bench trials: Designated hour, Monday through Thursday;     
  • Motions: 9:00 a.m., Monday;      
  • Suspensions of sentence: 9:00 a.m. or designated hour, Monday through Thursday.       

Rule 6. Pre-Trial Deadlines

The parties shall file any motion that requires a pre-trial hearing in sufficient time for the court to hear the motion on a regular motion day before trial. Before filing a motion to compel discovery, counsel shall seek to resolve each discovery dispute with adverse counsel.

[Note:  The Second Division's scheduling orders set specific times for the filing and hearing of pretrial motions.  For more information, please click here.]

A party who intends to offer an aural or visual recording as evidence in its case in chief in a jury trial shall so notify all other parties in writing and file a copy of the notice at least twenty (20) days before trial. Counsel may review the recording in the form in which the offering party intends to offer it and may copy the recording at his or her expense. If counsel has any objection to the recording, he or she shall promptly advise counsel for the offering party and counsel shall attempt to resolve the objection. If they cannot do so, counsel for the objecting party shall file a motion in limine in sufficient time for the court to rule on the matter before trial and the offering party to complete any necessary editing.         

The parties shall request any subpoena in sufficient time for the clerk or other court officer to issue the subpoena at least fifteen (15) days before trial or deposition. The sheriff shall return the subpoena at least five (5) days before trial or deposition.

A defendant who intends to assert a defense of insanity to the charge(s) shall so notify the district attorney general in writing and file a copy of the notice at least ten (10) days before trial.

A defendant who intends to offer expert testimony regarding a mental disease, defect, or condition of the defendant bearing on the issue of his or her guilt shall so notify the district attorney general in writing and file a copy of the notice at least ten (10) days before trial.

[Note: The standard scheduling orders specifically require early identification of issues relating to competence to stand trial, as well as defenses involving insanity or diminished capacity.  Please note that the deadlines set forth in this Rule are affected by the standard scheduling orders.]

The parties shall file any special request for jury instructions before jury selection begins.  If an issue is not then apparent, the parties shall file any such request as soon as practicable thereafter.

Rule 7. Preparation and Dissemination of Orders        

The judge shall prepare most orders and judgments, except judgments of conviction, which the prosecutor shall prepare. In some cases, the judge may direct the clerk or a party to prepare an order or allow a party to submit an order. When a party prepares an order, the party shall include spaces for the signatures of all parties or counsel on the left margin under the space for the signature of the judge. The same party who prepares the order shall sign it and submit it to other parties or counsel for their approval. If any party fails to agree that the order accurately states the judgment of the court, the party who prepares the draft shall so indicate on the draft and submit it to the judge. The party who disagrees with the accuracy of the draft may then prepare and submit his or her own draft to the judge. The judge shall then choose one of the drafts or prepare his or her own order. A party submitting a draft of an order shall submit the original with a copy for each adverse party.         

It is the duty of the clerk to notify all parties of the entry of written orders and judgments by providing them with a copy thereof. It is also the duty of the clerk to notify any person who has a duty to execute any part of the order or judgment, e.g., the sheriff, the department of correction, a probation officer, or a court reporter, and any other person for notice to whom the order or judgment provides.        

Rule 8. Records         

The clerk shall, at all times, have custody and control of the records of the Court and be responsible for their safekeeping. No one other than the clerk or a deputy clerk may remove a record from a case file. Counsel in a case may withdraw the case file from the clerk’s office on receiving the clerk’s permission and furnishing the clerk with a receipt. No one may withdraw a case file for the purpose of taking it to the courtroom except the judges of the Court, the clerk or deputy clerks, or, with the permission of the clerk, attorneys.

Rule 9. Appearance and Withdrawal of Defense Counsel

An attorney becomes counsel of record by appearing for a defendant in open court without announcing that he or she is appearing for a special purpose only, by filing any pleading or motion for a defendant without expressly limiting the appearance, or by receiving an appointment from the court.         

An attorney of record may only withdraw from a case by filing a written motion to withdraw and, in open court, obtaining permission to withdraw. To a motion to withdraw, counsel shall append a notice of the date and time of the hearing and the defendant’s obligation to attend and a certificate of service on the defendant, any surety, and the state. In addition, the clerk shall notify any surety of the defendant’s obligation to attend the hearing.        

Rule 10. Conduct in the Courtroom         

The space within the bar is, at all times, reserved for members of the bar, officers of the court, the clerk, any witness in the witness box, and any person at a table whom the state or the defendant designates as a necessary aide. All other persons who are in the courtroom while court is in session shall be seated outside the bar in the space reserved for spectators.         

While a case is pending before a jury and the jury is occupying the jury box or a jury room, no one, other than officers who are in charge of the jury and attorneys who are presenting or arguing a case, may stand, walk, or sit in the immediate vicinity of the jury box or jury room. While the judge is on the bench, no one, other than counsel, may walk between a counsel table and the bench.

Except for occupants of the tables and witness box, who may drink water within the bar, no one may consume food or drink or use tobacco products in the courtroom. Except as used by counsel in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-9-104 and by the media in accordance with Rule 11 of these rules, the use of any recording device, aural or visual, in the courtroom is prohibited and the use of any communication device in the courtroom for a purpose other than aural or visual recording must be silent and brief. The presence of small children in the courtroom is discouraged, and counsel shall so apprise their clients and witnesses.  All persons shall stand when addressing the court, except those suffering from a physical or other disability and counsel when voicing an objection and having insufficient time to rise.     

Rule 11. Operation of Media         

Media and their agents who record or broadcast in a courtroom shall understand and comply with Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30, which governs media access to public judicial proceedings in the courts of this state, prohibits the recording or broadcasting of certain participants, proceedings, and conferences, limits the number, sensitivity, and obtrusiveness of certain media devices and the number and conduct of the operators of such devices, and authorizes pooling arrangements. At no time may media record on or broadcast from the third floor of the City-County Courts Building, except, in compliance with Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30, in a courtroom or, on invitation, at the office of the district attorney general.

Note:  For more information relating to media coverage of matters pending in the Second Division, please click here]

Rule 12. Bail and Relief From Forfeiture     

No official may accept a personal check as a cash deposit in lieu of bail. Any official accepting a cash deposit in lieu of bail shall proceed as follows:         

(1) the official shall mark “cash bond” on the bond form;         

(2) the official shall have the defendant execute the bond form by signing it and inscribing his or her address thereon;         

(3) the official shall ascertain the name and address of the depositor and inscribe them on the bond form; and         

(4) the official, if other than the clerk or a deputy clerk, shall transmit the bond form with the deposit to the office of the clerk.         

After a preliminary forfeiture on a bail bond and within one hundred eighty (180) days of the service on the surety or, if there is no service, the return of scire facias [or notice of forfeiture], the principal and surety may file a request for relief. Such requests shall be heard on the bond docket on the second Tuesday of the next month. All matters regarding forfeiture or relief on bail bonds shall be heard in open court on the last motion day of the month.         

Any surety who is a professional bondsman within the meaning of Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-301(4) shall understand and comply with applicable provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-11-101--405. Professional bondsmen are also subject to additional rules of this Court that appear in an appendix hereto.