Tennessee State Courts

Courts – State Courts – Tennessee

Highest Court

The highest court in Tennessee is the Supreme Court of Tennessee.  The Supreme Court consists of 5 justices. It has jurisdiction over (1) Constitutional issues, workmen’s compensation, and state revenue appeals. (2) Constitutionality of a statute or ordinance. (3) Review of other appellate court decisions, and selected juvenile appeal.

Intermediate Courts

Court of  Appeals
The Court of Appeals consists of 12 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Hears only civil appeals. All civil except those to Supreme Court.

Workers Compensation Appeals
The Workers Compensation Appeals is a panel that hears and decides workers compensation appeals referred to it by the Supreme Court.

Court of Criminal Appeals
The Court of Criminal Appeals consists of 12 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Hears only criminal appeals, cases under post-conviction procedure act, felonies, and misdemeanors.

General Courts

Circuit Court
The Circuit Courts consists of 85 judges.  It has jurisdiction over (1) Contracts and demands over $50 ( $3,000 for some counties), divorce, landlord and tenant, adoption, equity, and chancery.
Appeals de novo.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Chancery Court
The Chancery Court consists of 33 chancellors. It has jurisdiction over (1) Equity cases over $50,divorce, adoption, and civil cases (except torts with unliquidated damages.) Appeals of administrative agency cases, probate of wills, administration of estates, and guardianship.
Appeals de novo.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Criminal Court
The Criminal Court consists of 31 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Felonies and misdemeanors.
Appeals de novo.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Limited Courts

Probate Court
The Probate Court consists of 2 judges, some general session judges also serve. It has jurisdiction over (1) Administration of estates, probate of wills, and guardianship.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Juvenile Court
The Juvenile Court consists of 17 judges, some general judges have juvenile court jurisdiction. It has jurisdiction over (1) Adults contributing to delinquency of minor. (2) Juvenile.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

General Sessions Court
The General Sessions Court consists of 154 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) Civil cases under $15,000, landlord and tenant, recovery of personal property to $36,000, equity cases under $1,500, some courts hear divorce, and workmen’s compensation. (2) Misdemeanors (fine less than $50, sentence less than 1 year), and preliminary hearings. (3) Some courts hear juvenile.
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Municipal Court
The Municipal Court consists of 170 judges. It has jurisdiction over (1) City ordinance violations (fine less than $50, sentence less than 30 days).
No jury trials are overseen by this court.

Additional Information

Vesting of judicial power
The judicial power of the state is vested in judges of the courts of general sessions, recorders of certain towns and cities, circuit courts, criminal courts, common law and chancery courts, chancery courts, court of appeals, and the supreme court, and other courts created by law. (Tenn. Code Ann. 16-1-101)

Conflicts in use of courtroom
In case of conflict among the courts, the use of the courtroom may be regulated by consent, in which case the court yielding the room may hold its session in any other room within the limits of the county seat. If no agreement is made, the circuit court shall be preferred to the chancery court. If excluded from the courtroom on Monday, the circuit court shall try no jury causes on that day, except by consent of parties.  (Tenn. Code Ann. 16-1-104)

Court outside courtroom
If court is unable to hold its session in the courthouse, the court may hold its session in any room within the limits of the county seat.  All these proceedings shall be valid as if done at the courthouse.(Tenn. Code Ann. 6-1-105)

Electronic signatures.
An electronic signature may be used to sign a pleading, court order, judgment order, affidavit of complaint, arrest warrant, a mittimus, or other court document and have the same effect as a written signature. (Tenn. Code Ann. 16-1-115)

Increase in positions or funding to office of public defender.
In effect on  July 1, 1992, any increase in local funding for positions or office expense for the district attorney general shall be accompanied by an increase in funding of seventy-five percent (75%) of the increase in funding to the office of the public defender in such district for the purpose of indigent criminal defense. (Tenn. Code Ann.16-2-518)

Special personnel for expedition of post-conviction proceedings in capital cases.
The supreme court is authorized to employ, reassign, or contract with individuals utilizing special funds appropriated solely for the purpose of providing prompt and fair adjudication of post-conviction proceedings in capital sentence cases, including authority to assign the additional personnel the duties of personnel reassigned to the post-conviction cases.  In no event shall the employment, contract, or expenditures under this authority extend beyond a two-year period. (Tenn. Code Ann. 16-3-212)

Hearing causes at any time
Each general sessions court judge is authorized to try any cause that may be brought before the judge at any time and at any place within the county, unless expressly prohibited by some positive provision of this Code. (Tenn. Code Ann. 16-15-404)


Inside Tennessee State Courts