Last updated: October 23, 2013
You'd be hard pressed to find a livelier country and bluegrass music scene than Knoxville, Tennessee. Our laid back city in the valley is proud home to the UT Vols (fight Vols fight, with all your might!) and the trailblazing TVA. Laid back as our town may be, its citizens nevertheless may find themselves faced with a court date for one reason or another.
The Tennessee judicial system is divided into big-time Circuit Court and small-time General Sessions Court. Fortunately, these courts are all housed in one primary courthouse in Knoxville, the City County Building. If you have any doubt as to which courthouse you should visit first, the City County Building is your best bet, though you may have business with the City or Juvenile Courts. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular legal matter is critical to your success, so here is a guide to some of the key courthouses in Knoxville.
The City County Building is the most important courthouse in Knox County. This building houses both the small-time General Sessions Court and the big-time Circuit Court. The General Sessions Court has jurisdiction over civil cases worth less than $25,000, traffic violations, misdemeanors and felony preliminary hearings. The Circuit Court handles large civil cases and major criminal violations. This building also houses the Knox County Jail. The best spot to park is the Dwight Kessell Parking Garage on the corner of State and Hill Streets.
Across the street from the behemoth City County Building, the historic Old Courthouse handles only minor civil matters and child support cases. Though its prominence has faded relative to the City County Building, the Old Courthouse is renowned for its famed colonial architecture and the important role it played in Tennessee political history. If you visit try not to catch the blues!
The Knoxville City Court, also known as Municipal Court, primarily handles traffic citations, parking tickets and other minor ordinance code violations such as zoning or noise violations. Only head to City Court if your traffic citation is green; if the ticket is pink or yellow your business is with the General Sessions Court in the City County Building. Got a traffic citation or parking ticket? Pay your ticket online to save the hassle of waiting in line.
The Juvenile Court handles cases when a minor commits a criminal offense, and determines when to remove a child from his or her parents due to abuse or neglect. They also oversee child custody cases, school attendance and drug or alcohol abuse in minors. Juvenile justice is aimed at rehabilitating minors instead of punishing them, so try to work out a deal involving an outreach or educational program to avoid Juvi Hall.
The Tennessee Appellate Courts are broken into civil and criminal divisions. Each review the appropriate lower court decisions in panels of three, which are in turn reviewed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Nashville. Capital cases skip the appellate court entirely and go straight to the Supreme Court. No cases reach the Court of Appeal until it has been resolved by a trial court. Appellate courts have no juries, witnesses or evidence, just written and oral legal argument.
The Howard H. Baker, Jr. United States Courthouse is home for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. This court handles exclusively federal matters at the trial level. The Knoxville branch serves Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union counties. The Eastern District of Tennessee lay within the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction over Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan and is headquartered in Cincinnati.