Tennessee Court Records
How do Tennessee Courts work?
The highest legal power in the state of Tennessee is the Supreme Court. This court has the power to oversee any decisions made by the Court of Appeals, allowing it to weigh in on any key debates, conflicts, or questions on law. However, the Court of Appeals is not without power, as it carries out a similar function over the lesser courts in Tennessee. The Court of Appeals can only intervene once one party contests a decision made. These lower courts come in the form of the 95 superior and trial courts across Tennessee’s 95 counties.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
In the state of Tennessee, the civil courts and small claims courts are structured very differently with regards to both the types of cases they deal with and the sum of money. Civil courts in Tennessee deal only with cases in which the petitioner is seeking over $150,000. There are nearly 175,000 of these cases filed in Tennessee each and every year. However, the civil court is not limited to monetary cases, as it can also hear disputes over property, name changes, and restraining orders. In contrast, the small claims courts in Tennessee are there to deal with cases in which the claimant is seeking $25,000 or under. There are nearly 100,000 of these cases filed annually in Tennessee. Some examples of the cases heard in small claims court include disputes over loans, payments, repairs, warranties, deposits, damages, and more, as long as the sum comes to below $25,000. The small claims court also has the power to order a defendant into paying a sum of money.
Appeals and court limits
There are a number of key differences in the court limits and the appeals processes in Tennessee small claims and civil courts. A person may hire an interpreter in small claims court, and do not have to be a US citizen to file or defend. Pretrial discovery is not allowed in small claims court, and a person is also not permitted to hire a lawyer to represent them or file papers on their behalf. Only the defendant can appeal a decision made in small claims court. There is a filing fee of $30-$100 per claim, and each party is then given 30-70 days to complete their case. On the other hand, pretrial discovery is allowed in civil courts, as is the hiring of a lawyer to represent and file papers on behalf of a client. Either party may appeal a decision made in civil court. There is a filing fee of between $180 and $320 per claim and each party is given up to 120 days to complete their case.
Why are court records public?
The Tennessee Open Records Act was introduced in 1957, with the latest amendments coming in 2008. The Act was introduced to ensure that residents of Tennessee have the ability to access all state public records. Any public record held by Tennessee local or state government can be accessed and copied by members of the public. By allowing access to these documents, it promotes a sense of transparency between the government and the public. It also safeguards any government accountability.
To access records:
Administrative Office of the Courts
511 Union Street
Nashville City Center, Suite 600
Nashville, TN 37219