The Tennessee Supreme Court signed an order on Friday to lift many of the restrictions it previously placed on in-person court proceedings due to COVID-19, citing declining cases and hospitalizations across the state. Those restrictions will now phase out in March.
Termination of parental rights cases may be heard in person on March 1. All other in-person proceedings may resume on March 15. Jury trials are still suspended until March 31, excepting a specific grant from the high court's Chief Justice.
The court also noted that all re-openings will be pursuant to districts' approved written plans concerning the pandemic. The order also included a number of rules and instructions, including:
Judges and staff will ensure social distancing and other safety measures
Anyone entering a courthouse or courtroom shall wear a face covering over their nose and mouth. This rule is optional for children under 12 and for people with a bona-fide medical or health related reason, such as people who have trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition. Children under 2 should not wear one due to suffocation hazard.
Anyone who has come into contact with a person with COVID-19 should quarantine for 10 days, or for 7 days with a negative test.
Anyone who thinks or knows they have COVID-19 should isolate for a period of 10 days after the first appearance of symptoms, and until a period of 24 hours with no fever or symptoms, whichever is longer.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 but shows no symptoms should quarantine for 10 days following the positive test.
Courts should still favor remote proceedings over in-person ones, and should continue to adopt technology to enable remote proceedings.
How will this affect Hamilton County? It is unclear as of today how courts here will look over the next few weeks, but the approved plans and amendments for the county can be found here, and will provide a roadmap for local reopening under the Supreme Court order:
Hamilton County Plan: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/11th_-_submitted_5-1.pdf
50% Capacity Amendment: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/11th_50_percent_capacity_amendment.pdf
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