TN Supreme Court Issues Order Requiring Facial Coverings in Court Sites
On July 9, 2020 the Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an Order requiring all persons entering a courthouse for the purpose of court-related business to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth. The face covering shall be worn at all times while in the building.
The Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court first issued an Order declaring a judicial emergency in the state on March 13, 2020. The emergency has been extended multiple times through additional Orders. The May 26 Order eased restrictions on in-person hearings, allowed for jury trials to begin after July 3, and allowed judicial districts to continue to operate under their approved plans. Today’s Order does not change those provisions and only adds a state-wide face covering requirement. The face covering requirement is effective Monday, July 13, and continues until further order of the Court.
“The recent uptick in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths required the Court to reconsider how to best keep the public, court staff, and judiciary safe while keeping courts as open and accessible as possible,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said.
November 17, 2020 - In response to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in the state, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an Order today designed to protect all of the participants in the judicial system and the public at large while keeping the courts open and accessible to carry out essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings. This is the Court’s sixth order related to the pandemic since it declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch on March 13, 2020.
Today’s Order suspends jury trials from November 23, 2020 through January 31, 2021, unless an exemption is granted by the Chief Justice. Jury trials were previously suspended from March 13 – July 3, 2020. In addition, the Order directs judicial districts to revisit and strictly adhere to their previously approved reopening plans; reiterates that the Court’s July 9 Order mandating face coverings for all persons who enter the courthouse for court-related business is still in full effect; encourages video conferencing whenever possible; reminds judges and attorneys that they have an ethical obligation to comply with Court Orders and the reopening plans drafted by the judicial districts; and prohibits anyone with COVID-19 from participating in an in-person proceeding. In addition, the Order directs judges to schedule and conduct in-person hearings in a manner that minimizes wait times in courthouse hallways, which often have limited space for social distancing.
The face covering requirement is consistent with directives from the Centers for Disease Control, the Tennessee Department of Health, and several Tennessee county mayors. The Order provides several exceptions, including for those under age 12 and individuals with a bona fide medical reason. Face coverings are available for free or low cost at https://tnmasksupply.com. Courthouses are also coordinating with local Tennessee Emergency Management Agency offices to have masks available.