State orders in-person courts, including Moore, closed through March

On Friday, the Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffery Bivins declared a state of emergency … essentially closing all state and county courts to in-person proceeding except in cases where the proceedings are “necessary to protect the constitutional rights of a defendant.”

According to the order, essential individual courts and court personnel will remain in office and “will remain open under all circumstances” but most in-person proceedings will be postponed.

“Each day across the State of Tennessee, thousands of people attend court proceedings in-person when they come to the courthouse as jurors, witnesses, litigants, or in another capacity. Public 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,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins.

“However, judges, court clerks, and others provide essential constitutional functions that must be carried on. In issuing this Order, the Court 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.”

Exceptions to the order would include orders of protection, emergency child custody hearings, emergency matters of child protection, temporary injunctive relief, mental health orders, emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable individuals, and any proceedings directly related tot he COVID-19 public health emergency.

Court proceedings will be limited to necessary individuals only and closed to the general public. In the event the court offices are closed to the public, those office would remain “open” through telephone and email during regular business hours. Drop boxes would be used to file official court documents.

“This is new territory for everyone,” Chief Bivins said. “We encourage judges, court clerks, attorneys, law enforcement, and others to work together to develop creative solutions that work for their individual jurisdictions. The goal is to limit the number of people coming into court each day while continuing to meet our duty and administer justice. We may amend this Order as the situation evolves, and we understand more about the obstacles judges and court staff are facing.”

To read the order in full, click here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Moore County … covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, the Lynchburg Music Fest, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}