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Courts Return to Stricter COVID Measures as Cases Rise

Tennessee Court System

Jury trials in Tennessee state courts will be suspended from November 23 through the end of January, 2021, and local judicial districts are being asked to review their own re-opening plans.

The order, issued by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Tuesday, is the second time this year trials have been put on hold because of COVID-19. The court system initially halted business from March 13 to July 3.

Additionally, the order reiterates the court’s July 9 order mandating face coverings for everyone who enters a courthouse for court-related business. It encourages video conferencing whenever possible, reminds attorneys and judges they have to comply with the order, and prohibits anyone with COVID-19 from taking part in any in-person proceedings.

Other hearings may continue, according to a statement, but judges are directed to schedule and conduct them in a way that reduces wait times in courthouse hallways, which often have limited space for social distancing.

Federal courts are not covered by the state order. Travis McDonough, the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Tennessee, issued an order Monday applying to federal courthouses and offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Greenville. Visitors will have to submit to temperature screenings, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and maintain a six-foot distance from others. Those who do not comply will be asked to leave the courthouse.

Tennessee's state court system remains under a state of emergency that was originally issued March 13.