Local Rules of Practice - General sessions court



Criminal & Civil


March 1, 2014




1.   AUTHORITY AND ABROGATION OF FORMER RULES                                  12.  GARNISHMENTS

2.   CODE OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT                                                           13.  CRIMINAL CASE DOCKETS

3.   GENERAL SESSIONS COURT RECORDS                                                        14.  CRIMINAL CASE CONTINUANCES


5.   COURTROOM DECORUM, PROCEDURES                                                      16.  SUBPOENAS

       AND APPROPRIATE ATTIRE                                                                             17.  SERVICE OF PROCESS

6.   REPRESENTATION AND ATTORNEYS                                                              18.  PLEA AGREEMENTS

7.   COURTROOM SECURITY                                                                                   19.  BAIL BOND

8.   SECURITY OF CHAMBERS AND ADJACENT AREAS                                       20.  FORFEITURE/PROPERTY

9.   CIVIL CASE DOCKETS                                                                                               SEIZURE WARRANTS

10. CIVILCASE CONTINUANCES                                                                             21.  RESTRICTED DRIVER’S LICENSE

11.LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS                                                                            


            As set forth herein, theLocal Rules of Practice for General Sessions Court of Hamilton County,Tennessee, are hereby adopted pursuant to the authority of Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-15-406 and § 16-15-714.  All former rules of local practice are herebyvoid, except as readopted herein.  Eachrule is applicable to all General Sessions Court matters, whether civil orcriminal, unless otherwise specified by rule. Thepurpose of these rules is to facilitate the just determination of everyproceeding in this Court by securing consistency, simplicity in procedure,impartiality and fairness in administration, thereby eliminating unjustifiableexpense and delay.


The ethical standards for the practice and theadministration of law in General Sessions Court shall be governed by the Tennessee Court RulesAnnotated, Rules of the Supreme Court, Rule 8, "Rules of Professional Conduct." 


A.  The Clerk ofCourt of General Sessions, Criminal Division, shall be responsible for the custody, control, and safekeeping of all General SessionsCriminal court records and documents, including search warrants and thecollection of all fines, costs and restitution unless otherwise ordered.

B.  The Clerk ofCourt of General Sessions, Civil Division, shall be responsible for the custody, control, and safekeeping of all General SessionsCivil court records and documents, and the collection of all fines, costs andrestitution unless otherwise ordered.

C.  Only the CourtClerk or the Clerk's representative shall remove civil warrants, criminal warrants, or any other court documents from thecourtrooms, or the clerk's office.

D.  All writtenpleadings, orders, judgments, and executions shall be filed with the appropriate Civil or Criminal Court Clerk.  Documents submitted for filing shall be incompliance with forms as specified by the Clerkof Court.

E.  With respect to filings not in compliancewith this rule, Supreme Court Rule 36(d) shall apply.


            Hamilton County General Sessions Court operates five courtrooms, all ofwhich are located on the second floor of the Hamilton County-City CourtsBuilding.  The five General SessionsCourt Judges rotate each week to one of the five court rooms, as indicated onthe dockets. 

A.  Upon arrest,criminal defendants are randomly assigned by computer to one of the fivejudges, and remain assigned to that judge so long as that defendant’s case(s)are pending or otherwise subject to a probationary period.  Where two or more defendants areco-defendants on a matter, the co-defendants will be reassigned to the judgewho was first assigned to a co-defendant. 

B.  The dockets forthe Criminal Divisions of General Sessions Court shall be posted daily in a conspicuous place at the office of the Clerkof Court of General Sessions, Criminal Division, in the Hamilton County-CityCourts Building.  The dockets for theCivil Division of General Sessions Court shall beposted daily in a conspicuous place at the office of the Clerk of Court ofGeneral Sessions, Civil Division.  Both civil and criminal dockets can be foundonline at www.hamiltontn.gov/sessions/dockets

C.  Docketscheduling shall be done through the offices of the General Sessions CourtClerks, Criminal and Civil Divisions, both of which are located on the firstfloor of the Hamilton County-City Courts Building.  Unless changed by the presiding judge becauseof necessity or convenience, the schedules of the courts are: 

                 (1)  Criminal cases commence in Courtrooms 1, 3and 4 at 8:30 a.m. Mondaythrough Friday, except as closed for holidays and as otherwise set forth by Court order.  A lunch recess may be taken at noon, or asotherwise determined by the presiding judge;

(2)  The DomesticViolence docket is heard each Monday at 8:30 a.m. in Courtroom 3;

(3)  Courtroom 5 is reserved each Monday fordomestic violence victims, witnesses and related programs/resources, to theexclusion of defendants for purposes of safety;


(4)  The criminal settlement and compliancedockets are held Monday through Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Courtrooms 1, 3 and 4;

                        (5)  Mental health hearings are conducted eachThursday at 9:00 a.m. for Valley Hospital commitments via video conferencingand at 10:00 a.m. at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute.


                        (6)  All civil matters commence in Courtroom6.  Each Monday, the detainer docketcommences at 8:30 a.m.  First settings ofall other civil cases are set for Monday at 11:00 a.m. for purposes ofscheduling a trial date, dismissal, settlement or entry of default judgments only.  Civil trials are scheduled at 9:00 a.m.Tuesday through Friday, commencing in Courtroom 6 and delegated betweenCourtroom 5 and 6 as deemed appropriate by the judge presiding in Courtroom 6.


A.  At the openingof each session of court, everyone shall rise and remain standing until thecourt officer formally opens court.  Thearea within the bar is reserved for attorneys, court personnel, officers andparticipants in the case immediately before the court.  All other people shall be seated outside ofthe bar.  Although the gallery is open tothe public, the court may exclude any

persons from court if they are found disruptive or asotherwise determined appropriate for safety of the court.


B.  The behavior ofall participants, attorneys, witnesses, and spectators shall conform to strictstandards of decency, dignity, etiquette, and propriety.  Everyone shall remove hats, raincoats, andsunglasses before entering the courtroom.  Demonstrations, acts of misconduct, loud talking, or any disruptionshall not be permitted inside or outside the courtroom.


C.  While in thecourtroom, all electronic and/or cellular devices must be turned off and shallnot be utilized by anyone except attorneys and court personnel asnecessary.  Unless authorized by thepresiding judge, no audio or visual recordings, including photography arepermitted except by attorneys during his/her representation at a proceeding.


D.  The conduct andattire of all attorneys and court attendants shall be professional businessattire and shall conform to the professional dignity expected of officers ofthe court.  All persons having mattersbefore the court, or otherwise in attendance, must be dressed appropriately,which shall exclude shorts, halter tops, bare midriffs, see-through attire,muscle shirts or tank tops, clothing with written or demonstrative obscenity,pornography or profanity.  No clothingshall be allowed that exposes undergarments or any intimate body part.


E.  All attorneysshall note their representation on civil warrants and criminal warrants, andshall appear at the client’s designated court time, unless the attorneynotifies the court of his/her whereabouts so that cases may be disposed ofexpeditiously.


F.  Attorneys shallrise and remain standing when addressing the Court, making a statement, argument, or objection to the Court or questioning awitness.


G.  The defendantshall be seated at the defense table or stand before the bench during anyhearing or trial, as ordered by the presiding judge.  Spectators may use unoccupied seats on firstcome, first served basis.  Standing willnot be permitted in the audience unless absolutely necessary.


H.  The courtofficer and other officers serving General Sessions Court shall be responsiblefor enforcing courtroom rules, procedures and decorum.


A.  Attorneysrepresenting litigants must be licensed to practice law in the State ofTennessee pursuant to the Tennessee Court Rules Annotated, Rules of theSupreme

Court, Rule 7 andqualified and registered with the State Board of Professional Responsibilitypursuant to the Tennessee Court Rules Annotated, Rules of the Supreme Court,Rule 9. 

B.  Individuals mayrepresent themselves and/or a business that he/she owns, so long as saidbusiness is not incorporated.  Incorporated businesses must be represented by a Tennessee licensedattorney at all court appearances. 


A.  Each division ofGeneral Sessions Court shall have at least two (2) court officers, one (1)jailer, and one (1) deputy clerk inattendance at all times while court is in session.


B.  All personsentering the courthouse must proceed through security, are subject to searchand must discard any items that security deems reasonable.


C.  The judge ofeach division of General Sessions Court may require all persons entering the courtroom to consent to a search of their person andbelongings to ensure the safety of participants, court personnel, andgovernment property.


A.  In order toensure safety of judges, officers and all personnel of the General Sessions Courts, the General Sessions Court corridor and offices, which areaincludes the City Court offices, are restricted from access to the public orother persons who are not specifically assigned to an office or the area, i.e.,General Sessions Court judges, administrators, officers or as otherwise permittedentrance upon request through the main corridor door, which provides video andintercom monitoring of entrants.


B.  Access to thecorridor and/or courtrooms from the side door or any back doors to thecourtrooms is prohibited by any unauthorized persons. Only General SessionsCourt judges, administrators and officers may use for any purpose thekitchen/lunch area, except as permitted by the Judge.  The hallway immediately behind eachparticular courtroom may be used for plea negotiations if other designatedareas herein are unavailable and permission is granted by the Court.

C.  The HamiltonCounty Sheriff’s Department shall enforce these policies and procedures toensure the integrity of the secured area.


A.         Civil cases shall be docketed not less than five (5) daysfrom the date of service of the civil warrant, unless an earlier dateis agreed upon by all participants, or mandated by law.


B.         Civil warrants filed on a pauper's oathshall be accompanied by a completed Affidavit of Indigency, whichis available at the Court Clerk's office.  The Court may require the affiant to appear and answer questions beforeruling on the application.


C.         Motionsto set installment payments, i.e. slow pay motions, on judgments and motions tostay executions of garnishments shall be filed in duplicate by the defendant ordefense counsel, signed by the defendant and sworn to before a notary or theCourt Clerk.  The hearing will be set notless than five (5) days after the filing date, and a copy of the motionimmediately mailed to the adversary party by the defendant or defense counsel.It is the burden of the defendant to show income and all expenses for the courtto determine a payment plan, if any, which may be paid within a reasonableperiod of time.


D.        Serviceof process shall be accomplished as soon as possible after receipt of the civilwarrant by the serving officer and returnmade not less than five (5) days before the trial date to the Court Clerk,unless otherwise provided for by law.


A(1).    If theplaintiff appears and the defendant fails to appear at the scheduled appearanceat the 11 o’clock docket or other trial date, the plaintiff’s proof will beheard, or submitted by affidavit, and a default judgment entered by the Court.


A(2).    If thedefendant appears and the plaintiff fails to appear at theMonday 11 o’clock docket or scheduled trial, the case will be dismissedand costs taxed to plaintiff.


A(3).    Ifboth parties fail to appear for the first setting on the 11:00 a.m. Mondaydocket, the case shall be continued until the following Monday; if neitherparty appears at the second hearing, the case shall be dismissed with costsassessed to plaintiff.


B.         When bothparties fail to appear for a trial and the Clerk of Court of GeneralSessions, Civil Division does not receive a request for a continuance fromeither party, the case shall be dismissed and costs assessed to the plaintiff.


C.         Eitherparty may file for the disposition to be set aside if filed within 10 days;however, it is within the discretion of the judge whether to grant saidmotion.  The plaintiff may have acontinuance to present evidence through witnesses in collectioncases filed on sworn statements if a defendant enters a sworn denial in thepresence of the judge on the trial date. 


            Pursuantto Supreme Court Rule 42, the appointing of a language interpreter is a matterof judicial discretion.  If the Courtdetermines that justice requires an interpreter to be appointed, saidappointment and scheduling of the interpreter shall be coordinated with theGeneral Sessions Court Administration Office.  Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 42, Section 7(a), the costs for theinterpreter shall be taxed as court costs to whichever party the Court deemsappropriate.  In the event an indigentparty is taxed with the court costs, the Court may exercise its discretion towaive said costs.

            Casesinvolving an interpreter will be heard at the beginning of the docket providedthe interpreter is prepared for trial.

            Foreign language interpreters willbe provided for parties involved during criminal in-court proceedings ifsufficient notification is made to the Court Administration Office.  The Court does not pay for post-adjudicationinterpretation. 

            Foreign language interpreters arepaid by the Administrative Office of the Courts, if the defendant is declaredindigent by the Court.  In the event thedefendant is not declared indigent, interpretation is taxed with the Courtcosts.  The Court may exercise itsdiscretion to waive said Court costs due to indigency.

            Interpreters will be present thirty(30) minutes prior to the scheduled Court appearance.


A.  An execution may be issued only on thewritten garnishment application by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s attorney or agent of record.  Applications must: 

             (1) Be completely filled out to be accepted by the Court Clerk; 

             (2) Show the amount of the unpaid judgment for each case;

             (3) Interest may be claimed. 

B.  Garnishments shall be released uponauthorization of a judge. 

C.  First or subsequent Petitions to Pay byInstallments (“slow pay”) shall be set for a court hearing to determine goodcause.  The Court Clerk shall not issueany Stay of Garnishment until the Court determines good cause and approves thePetition to Pay by Installments. 

D.  Motions to stay executions of garnishmentsshall be:

            (1) Filled out in duplicate by the defendant or defense counsel;

            (2) Signed by the defendant;

            (3) Sworn to before a notary or the Court Clerk before filing;

            (4)  May be set for hearing not less than five (5)days after the filing date. The defendant or defense counsel mustimmediately mail a copy of the    motionwith the hearing date to the adversary; 

            (5) All monies received through garnishments shall be paid to the Clerk of Court.


A.  All defendants have the duty to: 

(1) Know when they are scheduled to appear in court;

(2)  Appear at each hearing, trial setting,subsequent settings, report back dates or as otherwise ordered by the Court;


(3)  Be physically present during each hearing ortrial unless:

a.  Waived in advance by the defendant inwriting; 

b.  Ordered by the Court. 

B.  Failure to appear as set forth above shallconstitute contempt of court and may constitute a separate criminal offense.

C.  All defendantsshall behave in an orderly, dignified manner. Failure to do so may result in the removal of the defendant from thecourtroom pursuant to the Tennessee CourtRules Annotated, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 43.


A.  The first time acase is set for trial it may be continued for good reason within the sounddiscretion of the judge, upon defendant’s request in open court, unlessexcepted by the assigned judge for good cause. The second or subsequent time it is set for trial it will be continuedonly for compelling reasons.  Thefollowing are NOT deemed compelling reasons, but may be considered within thediscretion of the judge:

(1)  The client has not paid the fee; 

(2)  The client hasnot been to see the attorney; 

(3)  Lack of preparation; 

(4)  Any other reason that was previously known orshould have been known. 

B.  Only theassigned judge may grant continuances. It is the responsibility of the requesting party to notify the otherside of said continuance in advance so that witnesses shall be notified as soonas possible. 

C.  Unless goodcause is shown, all cases shall be disposed of within 120 days.


A.  The Court may place criminal cases on aCompliance Review Docket after pronouncing judgment, if: 

                        (1)  The defendant does not immediately pay intothe Court Clerk's Office                                    allfines levied and court costs accessed and due in full; 

                        (2)  The defendant has been ordered intotreatment, to make restitution, or mustcomplete a program or school as a condition of probation; 

                        (3)  The defendant has been placed on supervised probation;or 

                        (4)  At the Court’s discretion. 

B.  If the defendanthas been found by the Court to have a present financial inability to pay in full all fines and costs due, the Court may order thedefendant to set up a payment plan with the Clerk's Office with full payment bya date certain.  Defendants who fail topay fines will have driving privileges revoked as provided by law.  Additionally, failure of a defendant to make monthlypayments or complete any other condition of probation as ordered may result inthe defendant’s probation being revoked and/or continued. 

C.  If defendantfails to appear at a compliance review, the Court may issue a probationviolation warrant and the defendant may be criminally charged for Failure toAppear.


A.  Subpoenas shall be issued not less than seven(7) days prior to the trial date in all civil cases and criminal cases, unless otherwise ordered by the Court.


B.  It is the duty of the respective parties toensure the presence of their subpoenaed witnesses, unless otherwise ordered bythe Court.


C.  Failure of subpoenaed witnesses to appear maybe grounds for a continuance and a Show Cause may be issued ordering saidwitnesses to appear on the next court appearance or face Contempt of Court.


A.  A civil warrant, or any leading process usedto initiate an action in General Sessions Court, and subpoenas or summons maybe served by any person designated by the party, or the party’s attorney ifrepresented by counsel, who is not a party to the action and is not less thaneighteen (18) years of age.  Service ofother process, post judgment writs, levies, garnishments and executions shallbe by the Sheriff, or the Sheriff's designee, as provided by law. 

B.  The General SessionsCourt Clerk shall issue process as provided by law, however, the Clerk shall not knowingly issue process to a processserver who has had a felony conviction. The clerk issuing the process shall note the issue date upon theprocess.  The Clerk shall keepinformation, to be designated by the Court, for the purpose of contacting allprivate process servers in the event there is a question about the service. 

C.  Return shall bemade to the Court Clerk not less than five (5) days before the trial date unlessotherwise provided by law.  Return madeless than five (5) days before the trial date will result in the trial datebeing set one week later on the civil docket. All signatures shall be accompanied by the printed name.  The return shall have as a minimum thefollowing legible annotations: 

            (1)  The printed name of the person served.  (If possible, the served party should sign the process); 

            (2) Printed names of the persons(s) the server was not able to serve; 

            (3) Date of service; 

            (4) If all required parties were not served, a brief reason for non-service; 

            (5)  Court date and time.


            All plea agreements shall beaccompanied by a written plea agreement which may consist of the originalwarrant with the appropriate language reflecting the disposition of thecase.  All plea agreements shall besigned by the Defendant.  This rule shallnot apply to C misdemeanors.


            A.         Detention Without Permitting Bond

                        All bail issues shall bein conformity with the “Release from Custody and Bail Reform Act of 1978” and all amendments thereto. 

            B.         Duration of Capias 

                        Anycapias issued pursuant to a forfeiture, either conditional or final, shall remain in effect until thedefendant is apprehended and returned to custody and a disposition is made of the case. 

            C.         Surrender by Bond Companies 

                        Bondsmenshall be released from their obligation under the Bail Bond Reform
                        Act pursuant toT.C.A. §40‑11‑138 and T.C.A. §40-11-130.  Specifically, a bondsman shall be released when thedefendant’s case is passed (a) on good behavior;(b) to pay costs; or (c) to do public works or community service. 

                        Bondsmen shall be released if thedefendant has fled to a state that will not extradite or if it is a case inwhich Tennessee will not proceed with extradition. 

                       Bondingcompanies which are incorporated must be represented by an attorney except asprovided by T.C.A. §49-11-137(b)(3).

                       Anysurrender of a defendant by a bonding company shall be in compliance with T.C.A. §40‑11‑130through §40‑11‑137.


            Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated§40-33-204, Probable Cause Hearings for the issuance of Forfeiture PropertySeizure Warrant will be heard in Courtroom 4 and will be recorded, filed andmaintained by the Attorney General’s office. A certified copy of the recording shall be made available upon requestof any party and shall be admissible as evidence. 


            Allrequests for issuance of a restricted driver’s license shall be heard by theassigned judge, if available.  Allpaperwork and files relating to restricted driver’s licenses shall bemaintained in the Criminal Division of the General Sessions Court Clerk’s office.

            ENTER this 1st day of March, 2014.


Christie Mahn Sell, Division I                               

David E. Bales, Division II                           

Clarence Shattuck, Division III

Lila Statom, Division IV

Gary W. Starnes, Division V