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Pandemic disrupts court system
Lisa Z.png
Lisa Z

Court proceedings for most Tennessee residents have been postponed through at least April 30, although a few jail inmates are having their cases settled via video conference.

Judge Bill Locke ruled on four cases via video last week, a special exception that’s been granted during COVID-19 concerns. Normally video proceedings are for arraignment only and a person must appear in court to enter a plea and be sentenced.

“We’re still having court as much as we possibly can, just not in-person court,” said District Attorney Gen-eral Lisa Zavo-giannis. “We’re going to have to be patient during this pandemic and work as hard as we can to catch back up when it’s over. What we need now is for everyone to stay at home and keep their distance so the community can come out of this.”

Zavogiannis said she believes the statewide courthouse closures could be extended past the current April 30 date, which will create more delays.

Circuit Court Clerk Casi Cantrell said there will be a logjam when court resumes.

“There are going to be some very large dockets and I think it’s inevitable we’re going to have to add some extra court dates,” she said.

A dropbox has been installed at the back of the courthouse for payments. Courthouse offices remain open for phone calls Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. The public can access courthouse offices by appointment only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

While coronavirus has altered many aspects of life, Cantrell said it won’t get you out of jury duty. She said she expects current jurors to have their time extended since they have been unable to serve during the current closure.

As for cases that have been settled, Judge Locke has ruled on the following cases via video in General Sessions Court.

Florence Davenport was ordered to serve 180 days for permitting or facilitating escape, failure to appear, and violation of probation. She will lose her judicial diversion. 

Joe James Roark was ordered to serve 30 days of an 11-month, 29-day sentence for second-offense driving on a suspended license.

Ordered to serve jail time for violation of probation were Ruth Ann Young (30 days) and Lacey Angelica Thatch (30 days).