The Tennessee Supreme Court has changed a number of critical court rules to accommodate the federal mandate of continued social distancing in response to COVID-19. Here is a brief summary:
Most in-court appearances have been suspended until April 30, 2020. Exceptions (where court hearings must take place) include:
- Criminal proceedings of a constitutional nature like bond hearings and preliminary hearings (hearings where someone’s immediate freedom is at stake);
- Orders of protection;
- Emergency child custody or visitation issues;
- Petitions for injunctions (to immediately stop someone from doing something that cannot be later remedied); and
- Hearings directly related to the public health emergency.
Telephone and video hearings (Skype, Zoom, etc.) are strongly encouraged. Judges, clerks, and lawyers are given broad authority to get creative to make this happen.
Deadlines for statutes of limitation that say a case must be filed within a specific period of time are extended for cases where the deadlines occur between March 13 and May 5. These are extended to May 6. So if the deadline to file a lawsuit falls on April 29, that lawsuit does not have to be filed until May 6.
Local officials are ordered to work on a system that will limit evictions and garnishments until April 30.
Orders of protection set to expire between March 13 and May 5 are automatically extended to May 6.