I enjoy hitting the road and going to courts all over middle Tennessee. But, at the same time, it can be disconcerting to go to court in a new county, which generally has its own Local Rules and customs of practice. No matter how long you’ve been practicing, you never want to embarrass yourself in front of a foreign court.
So, I’m starting a “Tour of Tennessee” blog series, which discusses the different Courts that I go to, along with some tips and tricks for appearances.
First stop, Rutherford County General Sessions Court. Here is a link to the General Sessions Court’s website, which has updated, good information about the Court, including phone number, address, and Clerk information.
Note that the Rutherford County Courts, including General Sessions, post a variety of their dockets online. Be sure to print out a copy of the docket before you go to court.
Their Local Rules are also posted online, and read those before you go.
Here are some helpful tips to know from the Local Rules:
- The Court presumes cases will be tried on the the date they are set, but, on the first setting in civil actions, the “court may liberally grant a continuance on the first setting of a case.”
- The Court does not allow “indefinite” continuances. Under Local Rule 5.01, the Court only allows continuances of less than 60 days.
- The Court will only allow 3 continuances, absent good cause.
- The Court caps attorney fees at 25%, unless good cause is shown.
Here are a few other things to know:
- The Judge, Larry Brandon, is sharp, both in his legal acumen, as well as his wit and the way he runs the Courtroom. Stay on his good side by being early, paying attention, and reading the Local Rules before you go.
- Seriously, that’s important: stay on his good side across the board.
- Many Clerks are liberal and let you use any old Civil Warrant forms, but, if you’re in doubt about your form, be sure to use the official Civil Warrant forms from the Rutherford County General Sessions Clerk. Using the standard form is an important part of staying on the Judge’s and the Clerk’s good side.
- On street parking is plentiful all around the Courthouse, and there are a number free lots available.
- General Sessions Court takes place on the third floor of the Courthouse. The General Sessions Clerk is on the first floor.
- The security line can get long, particularly if you’re running late. Be prepared to remove watches, belts, and other metal items. Attorneys can purchase “pre-screened” pass cards for $5, which allow you to by-pass security. If you go there a lot, keep that in mind.
- The elevator gets backed up, and, if you’re running late, head to the stairs in the back of the building.
- Judge Brandon starts promptly, at 9AM.
- It’s about a 45 minute drive from downtown Nashville, so give yourself an hour.
- Cases are generally called in batches, organized by the Plaintiff’s attorney’s name, meaning all of an attorney’s cases are generally bundled together and called at the same time (and then that attorney is allowed time to go to the hall and review the matters or write them up).
Rutherford County General Sessions Court is an active court, often with a large number of cases (40-50) set on one docket. Be early, be prepared, and read the Local Rules, and your court appearance will go fine.