The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Courts

Reference Number: MTAS-59
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 21, 2017
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The Tennessee Constitution empowers the state legislature to define the authority of municipal courts. The constitutional language states that the legislature may "vest such jurisdiction in corporation courts as may be deemed necessary" (Article VI, Section 1). [5]

Any city may establish a municipal court, but Tennessee does not have a uniform system for creating municipal courts. Each private act and statutory charter has its own procedures for appointing a city judge and creating a city court. Under the general law charters and provisions dealing with home rule cities:

  • The mayor-aldermanic charter provides for the board to elect or appoint a city judge (T.C.A. § 6-4-301);
  • The city manager-commission charter provides for the commission to appoint a city judge. Cities meeting population requirements may elect a judge. (T.C.A. § 6-21-501);
  • The modified city manager-council charter provides for an elected city judge (T.C.A. § 6-33-102); and
  • City judges in home rule municipalities are "... appointed on nomination of the mayor and concurred in by the city council or other legislative body."[6] After judges are appointed, they must run in the next general  election. The governing bodies of home rule municipalities are empowered to create additional divisions of a city court (T.C.A. §§ 16-17-101–105).

Notes: 

[5] Chapter No. 914, Public Acts of 2004, designated the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004, made extensive revisions to city court authority. It is codified at T.C.A. §§ 16-18-301, et seqs

[6] Chapter No. 128, Public Acts of 2009, revised the language in T.C.A. §16-17-102.

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