The Court System of Tennesse

Senior (College 4th year) ・Law ・APA ・3 Sources

The court system of Tennessee is comprised of a state court framework and six government courts. Moreover, the state court of Tennessee comprises of a few courts which include the trial courts of general jurisdiction, appellate courts, and trial courts of limited jurisdiction. the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee court of appeals make up the appellate courts. The Tennessee Supreme Court is the State's court, which is regularly considered if all other things fail, manages instances of offers from the other lower courts (Blaze and Morgan, 2014). Additionally, the Supreme Court plays a significant role in interpreting the laws enshrined in the Tennessee State Constitution. On the other hand, the court of appeal mainly deals with decisions that revolve around civil cases. In most cases, the civil cases are often appeals from other lower courts that are ranked below the court of appeal.

The Tennessee Chancery Courts, which are under the trial courts, deal with general jurisdiction. The court works in collaboration with the circuit courts. The court also handles cases related to domestic issues that affect members of the counties of Tennessee on top of dealing with civil cases. Some districts of Tennessee have no separate criminal courts; thus, the circuit courts are in charge of dealing with domestic or criminal cases. Criminal courts are approximately 13 in total in the districts of Tennessee. The criminal courts deal with criminal matters. The Tennessee probate courts are located in the counties of Davidson and Shelby. The two courts play a vital role in handling probate cases, as well as cases related to administration of estates. The courts of limited jurisdiction include the Tennessee general session court, the Tennessee juvenile court as well as the Tennessee municipal court (Blaze & Morgan, 2014). Six federal courts operate in the counties of Tennessee. They include the Middle District of Tennessee, Eastern District of Tennessee, Middle District of Tennessee Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Tennessee Bankruptcy Court and Eastern District of Tennessee Bankruptcy Court.

The courts of limited jurisdictions are often referred to as local courts. The courts deal with minor civil matters or criminal cases. Evidently, the courts receive funds to spearhead its activities from local sources. In case of civil or criminal matters that involve major decision-making, the courts decide on the preliminary matters of the cases, while a higher-ranking court handles the rest of the case. One of the forms of the courts of limited jurisdiction is the court of general session, which is present in all the counties of Tennessee. The functions of these courts differ from one county to another but are mainly based on private acts that are used by the General Assembly of each county (Banks & Entman, 2014). The courts also solve minor criminal or civil issues that affect the people in the respective counties. However, the judges of the courts have the power to order for search or arrest of suspects by issuing a warrant of arrest. The general session judges also play the role of juvenile judges in counties that have no juvenile courts. The courts also assist in the recovery of property that has been lost. Additionally, the general session courts have the power to preside over small cases. If any person wishes to file an appeal from the courts, it is done in the form of a trial de novo or a new trial.

Juvenile court judges are experts that deal with criminal acts committed by juveniles. Evidently, juvenile courts were established to ensure that the children do not go through the same punishment that adults were subjected to, as well as being imprisoned with adults. Juveniles are not in a position to survive the harsh conditions that adult prisoners face as they serve their jail terms. Instead of being punished, juvenile offenders are often rehabilitated as they are prepared for recently into the society at the end of their jail terms (Banks & Entman, 2014). When they were first set up, the juvenile courts were only available in three states. The three states were urbanized and had adequate facilities and assistance that enabled them to put across and manage juvenile prisons. Approximately 17 juvenile prisons have been established in the districts of Tennessee to offer rehabilitation services to young offenders.

The courts often deal with unruly, delinquent or neglected juveniles that deserve to undergo correctional programs at the rehabilitation centers to become responsible members of the society. Juvenile courts work in collaboration with the chancery, probate and circuit courts. The general session courts play the role of proceeding over juvenile cases in the districts that do not have juvenile courts. The courts often waive jurisdiction in some instances, especially if the case that a juvenile has been charged with is not minor. The district attorney general has the power to waive the jurisdiction (Banks & Entman, 2014). However, it only applies if the juvenile is older and has a criminal record where the juvenile would be charged as an adult. The process takes place in criminal courts or circuit courts depending on the circumstances of the case. However, the cases are rare, which implies that most children are tried in juvenile courts and rehabilitated.

Municipal court’s jurisdiction is in the specific area where the courts are located. They are located in various cities and handle cases that occur within the particular city. The courts are present in approximately 300 cities in Tennessee; they are an integral part of the judicial system. The courts deal with matters that violate the codes and policies of cities. Some of the cases involve the refusal to comply with the rules of the city such as violation of parking or traffic rules. Most of the rules that guide people and operations of the courts are a reflection of the rules present in the constitution (Banks & Entman, 2014). Therefore, the constitution allows the municipal courts to conduct the trial of the offenses committed within the jurisdiction of the city. Additionally, the fines, as well as other funds earned from the municipal courts, act as a source of revenue for the city thereby contributing to administration costs and provision of public goods and services to the people who live in the city.

However, the municipal court judges have the authority to impose fines of up to $30 and a maximum imprisonment of thirty days. Despite this, municipal jurisdiction often differs from one city to another regarding policies due to different political, economic and social conditions of the cities. Additionally, the courts of general jurisdiction have the authority to review the trials and sentences that have been passed by the municipal courts in the form of a trial de novo (Fish, 2015). The charter of the city assesses the qualification for judges of the municipal court. The charter puts across several policies and criteria for determining the qualifications of judges. For instance, in some cities in Tennessee, members of the city elect the judges who are allowed to serve a four-year term. After the four years, a new judge is elected to take charge of the court proceedings. Municipal courts deal with minor criminal offenses.

The courts of general jurisdiction consist of 31 circuit and chancery courts located in the 31 districts of Tennessee. Additionally, specialized criminal courts and separate probate courts that deal with issues related to estates are also present in approximately one-third of Tennessee districts. The trial judges are part of the process where they appoint one judge to act a presiding judge for each district. The circuit courts deal with both civil and criminal cases (Fish, 2015). They are courts of general jurisdiction and handle appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction. However, chancery courts deal with civil case exclusively. They focus more on equity compared to the traditional rule of law. The courts originate from English heritage and reflect the English system with the chancellor being the leader. However, the chancellor is allowed to apply various modifications to common traditional rules; thus, strict legal rules may not apply in some circumstances.

However, chancery courts conduct jury trials just like circuit courts even though their jurisdictions differ due to some current changes. Criminal courts handle appeals from lower courts and assists circuit courts when there is too much workload. The intermediate Appellate courts include the court of chancery appeals that was later named as the court of appeals. There are two intermediate appellate courts, which include the court of appeals and court of criminal appeals. Most civil cases from lower courts are often channeled to the court of appeal and consists of twelve judges. During the hearing of cases, the court of appeal often has a panel of approximately three judges that do not take testimonies or admit evidence. The main role of the court of appeal is reviewing documents presented by the lower courts to determine if the trial was fair or some errors need to be corrected.

However, the final decision of the court of appeal is still subject to corrections by the Supreme Court. However, in most cases, the decision made by the court of appeal is often final. The court of criminal appeals is a parallel tribunal that mainly deals with appeals related to criminal courts. The jurisdiction is limited to criminal cases, assessing the validity of the final judgment or a sentence that has been issued regarding a criminal case, extradition cases, as well as criminal contempt that may arise from civil or criminal cases. The highest in the rank is the Tennessee Supreme Court. It is made up of two justices, and its decisions regarding any form of violation of the law are final. The operations of the intermediate appellate courts make it easier for the Supreme Court to focus mainly on important cases by making the judicial process easier.

Diversity jurisdiction in federal courts should be restricted further to keep cases essentially involving state court questions out of federal courts due to the changing choice of law process. Evidently, there has been a considerable deviation from the channels and legal procedures that individuals are supposed to follow based on the nature of the case and the court system that should handle the case. As a result, various courts such as federal courts can hardly work in line with the reasons for its formulation. Restricting diversity jurisdiction in federal courts ensures that both federal and state courts operate in line with their objectives to avoid defiant decision making by some people to handle cases in appropriate courts (Fish, 2015). This restriction encourages a continued effort by both federal and state courts that assists in developing a system of rules that operates automatically.


Banks Jr, R., & Entman, J. F. (2014). Tennessee Civil Procedure. LexisNexis.

Blaze, D. A., & Morgan, R. B. (2014). Toward More Equal Access to Justice: The Tennessee Experience. Tenn. JL & Pol'y, 10, 163.

Fish, P. G. (2015). The politics of federal judicial administration. Princeton University Press.

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