Tennessee Court Records
Tennessee Court Records, maintained primarily by the Tennessee State Courts system, refer to official documents and information generated during legal proceedings in the state.
These records are an essential source of information for legal professionals, researchers, and individuals seeking information about a particular legal case or court proceeding. They can be used to track the progress of a lawsuit, review court orders and judgments, and access other important information related to legal proceedings in Tennessee.
Depending on the case and the court that heard the matter, the specific information included in these documents can vary but may include the following:
- Case filings and documents such as legal pleadings, motions, briefs, and other documents filed with the court by the parties involved in the case
- The decisions made by judges or juries in the case, including verdicts, sentences, and rulings on motions and objections
- Transcripts of court proceedings, including hearings, trials, and other legal proceedings
- Dockets that show the schedule of events in the case, including court dates, motions, and other actions taken by the parties involved
- Statements given by witnesses, including depositions and testimony presented during the trial
- Exhibits or the physical or digital evidence presented in court during a legal proceeding
- Case histories, such as previous actions taken in the case, including filings, court orders, and judgments
Under the Tennessee Public Records Act (TPRA), the public can see and make copies of these documents and other materials held by state and local governments. However, access to these records may be subject to certain exceptions, such as confidential records by law or court order.
In addition, when the court amended the TPRA, 538 formerly public papers were no longer public records.
Which Tennessee Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
You must know how the state court system works to get Tennessee Court Records.
In Tennessee, the court system comprises the Supreme Court, the Appellate Courts (the Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals), the Trial Courts (Circuit Courts, Criminal Courts, Chancery Courts, and Probate Courts), and the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (General Sessions Courts, Juvenile Courts, and Municipal Courts).
Most public records in Tennessee are in the following Trial Courts and Courts of Limited Jurisdiction:
Tennessee Circuit Courts
Circuit Courts in Tennessee have comprehensive jurisdiction over all criminal and civil disputes and share authority with other state courts for specific issues. These courts will hear matters if no other court has jurisdiction over them.
There are 31 judicial districts in Tennessee, each with at least one Circuit Court Judge. The Circuit Courts handle various cases, including civil cases involving disputes between individuals, businesses, or organizations and criminal cases ranging from minor offenses to serious felonies.
Tennessee Criminal Courts
Criminal Courts in Tennessee are responsible for hearing and adjudicating criminal cases. These courts handle cases involving alleged violations of state criminal laws, ranging from minor offenses such as traffic violations to more serious crimes like murder, assault, and drug trafficking.
Private Acts create Tennessee Criminal Courts in Judicial Circuits that span one or more counties. These courts have concurrent jurisdiction over criminal matters by statute with the Circuit Courts. However, Circuit Courts often do not exercise authority over criminal proceedings in districts having Criminal Courts.
Tennessee Chancery Courts
Tennessee Chancery Courts hear most equitable cases that other courts cannot.
In addition, it has exclusive jurisdiction over actions brought by the state against companies, some kinds of creditor demands, and boundary disputes involving the property.
In most cases, Chancery Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with other courts. Chancery Courts and Circuit Courts share jurisdiction over the following matters:
- Abatement of nuisances
- Trustee petitions
- The release and appointment of trustees
- Distribution or division of real and personal assets
- Sale of real estate via probate proceedings
- Name changes
Some Tennessee Chancery Courts have authority over the following cases:
- Administration of estates
- The probate of wills
Tennessee Probate Courts
Generally, Probate Courts in Tennessee have original authority over probate proceedings in the state. Some of the probate cases that these courts can hear include the following:
- Probate of wills
- The administration of estates
Based on the terms of the Private Act, a Probate Court may share jurisdiction over certain kinds of proceedings with the county's Circuit Court, Chancery Court, or General Sessions Court.
Tennessee General Sessions Courts
General Session Courts in Tennessee have authority over specific criminal and civil matters. Private Acts govern these courts' county-specific jurisdictional levels.
Primarily, these courts can handle the following criminal matters:
- Pre-trial hearings
- Jury-free misdemeanor trials
- The majority of municipal ordinance infractions
General Sessions Courts and Municipal Courts may share certain municipal violation jurisdictions.
For civil cases, a General Sessions Court in Tennessee primarily hears the following:
- General civil lawsuits without financial limits
- Other civil and equitable cases involving claims valued at less than $25,000
Tennessee Juvenile Courts
Juvenile Courts are divisions of General Sessions Courts unless a county or municipality has established one by Private Act or the municipal charter.
Whether it works as a court division or as a different court, a Juvenile Court in Tennessee has authority over the following cases:
- Juvenile dependency
- Minors accused of misbehavior
- Child abuse and neglect
- Judicial authorization for employment or enlisting
- Issues related to the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
- Juvenile traffic violations
- Paternity cases
- Child custody and associated issues for unmarried parents
- Child support
- A child's guardianship
- Termination of parental or guardianship rights
- Domestic relations cases
- Mental illness
Juvenile Court proceedings in Tennessee are confidential and not open to the public. The records of juvenile court cases are also private, and access is limited to authorized individuals.
Tennessee Municipal Courts
Tennessee Municipal Courts, sometimes called City or Town Courts, are local courts in Tennessee with limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases. These courts handle cases involving city ordinances violations and traffic violations within the city limits.
Certain Municipal Courts in Tennessee have authority over municipal ordinances that parallel state criminal statutes, such as reckless driving, driving without a license, and alcohol offenses committed by minors. If a Tennessee General Sessions Court has jurisdiction, these courts cannot hear local laws that violate state law.
A Municipal Court may also hear juvenile traffic infractions if a juvenile judge waives authority.
What are the Common Public Court Records in Tennessee?
Below are some of the common public court records in Tennessee with an overview of their information:
Tennessee Civil and Small Claims Records
Tennessee Civil Records are public records documenting the legal proceedings of civil cases heard in the state's courts. These records include various types of documentation related to civil lawsuits, including complaints, pleadings, motions, and orders issued by judges.
The amount of money involved in civil court records in Tennessee is typically more than $25,000 but may still vary, depending on the nature of the case and the damages sought by the plaintiff. The damages sought in a civil lawsuit include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, emotional distress, and other losses.
Most civil cases worth $25,000 are heard in General Sessions Courts. Thus, visit or contact the court in the county that recorded the dispute to get information from these records.
On the other hand, Tennessee Small Claims Records refer to legal documents and court proceedings related to small claims cases filed in Tennessee's Small Claims Court.
Tennessee Small Claims Records may include a variety of documents, such as the initial complaint filed by the plaintiff, responses from the defendant, court orders, judgments, and other related materials.
According to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-15-501, Small Claims Courts in Tennessee are divisions of the General Sessions Court that handle disputes between individuals or businesses where the amount is relatively small. These cases typically involve disputes over unpaid debts, property damage, and other similar issues.
In counties with a population of more than 700,000, the maximum value of a small claims case is $25,000, but less than $15,000 for Tennessee counties with fewer than 700,000.
However, no financial restriction exists for eviction or personal property recovery disputes. These matters may be taken before the General Sessions Court regardless of the amount at stake.
Tennessee Criminal Records
One of the most requested Tennessee Court Records is criminal records. A Tennessee Criminal Record is a collection of official documents that detail an individual's involvement with the criminal justice system in the state.
Some of the information often seen in these documents are as follows:
- Personal identifying information such as name, date of birth, gender, and race
- The subject's physical description, such as height and weight
- Arrest information, including the date and place of the arrest and the agency that made the arrest
- Details about the offense, including the type of crime and the date of the offense
- Case disposition—conviction, acquittal, or dismissal
- Court information, such as the court's name, the judge's name, and the court appearance date
- Sentencing information, including the length of the sentence, the type of sentence, and if served
- Correctional status
These records may be accessed by employers, law enforcement agencies, and members of the public to make informed decisions about individuals who may pose a risk to public safety.
The best way to access Tennessee Criminal Records is through the Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) Division of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
For a criminal history background check, you can employ the CJIS Division's services to conduct a name-based, statewide search.
Tennessee Traffic Records
Tennessee Traffic Records refer to the official records maintained by the state's Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS), state courts, and other law enforcement agencies related to the registration, licensing, and operation of motor vehicles, as well as driving-related offenses committed by motorists.
These records, sometimes known as Moving Violation Reports (MVRs), may contain a variety of information, including:
- Driver's name
- Date of birth
- Driver's license number
- Driving status
- License revocations and suspensions
- Traffic violations
- Vehicle registration information
- Accident reports
- Any out-of-state traffic violations
Tennessee traffic violations refer to actions or behaviors violating the state's laws. Some of the most prevalent traffic violations in Tennessee include the following:
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Failure to yield
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Reckless driving
- Driving with a suspended or revoked license
Through the Driver Services of the DSHS, you can request MVRs online. However, you must know the record subject's name, birth date, driver's license number, and social security number to access these records. You must also pay the applicable charge, possible only through check cards or credit cards.
Aside from the online method, in-person requests for MVRs are also feasible. You must visit a Driver Services Center, give the necessary information, and pay the appropriate fee to get these records personally.
Tennessee Probate Records
Tennessee Probate Records are legal documents and records created when a person dies, and their estate is settled through the probate process in the state. The probate process in Tennessee determines the validity of a deceased person's will, identifies their heirs, and distributes their assets according to their wishes or state law.
The specific information on these records may vary depending on the record type and the time it was created. Some of the common types of information found on Tennessee Probate Records may include:
- Personal information, such as the name, date of death, age, occupation, and residence of the deceased
- Names and relationships of the decedent's heirs, including spouse, children, and other relatives
- A detailed list of the dead person's assets, including real estate, personal property, and financial holdings
- Information about the decedent's debts and obligations
- Name and contact details of the person responsible for administering the estate
Note that some cases related to the probate of wills, the administration of estates, guardianships, and conservatorships are in the Circuit Courts and Chancery Courts.
Tennessee Family Records
Tennessee Family Records refer to legal documents and proceedings related to family law cases heard in the state's Family Courts. A Family Court is a division of the Tennessee trial court system specifically designed to handle cases involving domestic and family-related issues, such as divorce, spousal support, child custody, child support, and domestic violence.
Family Courts are typically part of the Tennessee Circuit Court or the Chancery Court, depending on the jurisdiction and the specific types of cases the court handles.
These records include several documents, such as petitions, motions, orders, judgments, and other legal papers generated during family court proceedings.
You can typically find Tennessee Family Records at the courthouse that heard the case. If you know which county the lawsuit was filed in, you can contact the county clerk's office or the Family Court clerk's office to request access to the records.
While family court records are generally open to the public, access to these records may be restricted in certain circumstances. For example, if a party to the case has a protective or restraining order, the court may limit access to the records to protect the parties' safety.
Tennessee Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy records are not officially part of the state's trial court system, yet they are among the most often sought Tennessee Court Records.
In Tennessee, bankruptcy refers to federal rules that help those with too much debt. It means that a federal court handles bankruptcy proceedings in Tennessee, not a state trial court.
Tennessee Bankruptcy Records are legal documents generated when an individual or a business files for bankruptcy in the state. Some of the typical bankruptcy filings in Tennessee are Chapters 7 and 13.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a legal process designed to help individuals or businesses eliminate most unsecured debts.
In this bankruptcy filing, a court-appointed trustee manages the debtor's assets and determines which assets are exempt from liquidation. The trustee sells the non-exempt assets to repay creditors, and any remaining eligible debts are discharged.
On the other hand, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors to keep their assets while they repay their debts.
Unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which requires the liquidation of non-exempt assets to repay creditors, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors to keep their property and pay their debts through a repayment plan that usually lasts three to five years.
Regardless of the type of bankruptcy, some of the typical types of information that may be in a Tennessee Bankruptcy Record are as follows:
- Basic information about the debtor, including their name and contact information
- Information about the bankruptcy filing, including the date and location
- Debtor's lists of assets and liabilities
- Information about the debtor's income, expenses, and financial history
- Details about creditors, including the names and addresses of creditors and the amount of debt owed
- Records of court hearings and other legal proceedings related to the bankruptcy case
How To Obtain Bankruptcy Records in Tennessee?
In the U.S., only federal courts have authority over bankruptcy proceedings. The federal courts in Tennessee that handle bankruptcy matters are the following:
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee with divisions at Jackson and Memphis
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee with courthouses at Cookeville, Nashville, and Columbia
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee with locations at Chattanooga, Knoxville, Greeneville, and Winchester
You can obtain Tennessee Bankruptcy Records in person at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court clerk's office in the division or courthouse where the debtor resided, worked, or had assets for at least 180 days before the bankruptcy filing.
The Bankruptcy Clerk's office also accepts written and verbal requests. The court may charge a fee for providing these records, and the processing time may vary depending on the requests they receive.
In addition, the Tennessee bankruptcy courts have public-access terminals in the clerk's office. At the clerk's office, you may use the computers to study unsealed bankruptcy records and print up to ten pages.
Lastly, you can obtain bankruptcy records in Tennessee by accessing the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. To access PACER, you must create an account and pay a fee for each search.
Does Tennessee Have a Case Search?
Tennessee does not have a designated case search or case management system where you can obtain electronic Tennessee Court Records from the state trial courts.
Thus, the best way to access court records in Tennessee is to identify the court that heard the relevant cases.
Once you have identified the court that filed the case, contact the court clerk's office to request the records. You may also request records in person by visiting the court clerk's office during business hours.
When you contact the court clerk's office, you must provide identifying information about the case, such as the case number, the parties' names, and the case filing date. Providing as much information as possible will help the court clerk locate the records more quickly.
Alternatively, you may have copies of trial court documents from various counties through the Tennessee State Library and Archives. You can search their online catalog or contact them to request record access.
In Tennessee, custodians of public documents must reply to requests within seven business days. If a request is refused, the custodian must explain the denial. They must inform you immediately if the requested records are not accessible within seven days.
Though Tennessee does not have a particular case search for state trial court records, you can use its Public Case History if interested. It is an online tool that you can use to view public court documents of the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Criminal Court of Appeals.
Counties in Tennessee
- Van Buren
Courts in Tennessee
List of Content
- Which Tennessee Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
- What are the Common Public Court Records in Tennessee?
- Does Tennessee Have a Case Search?