Due Processes 

A Guide to the Courts

A Guide to the Courts

Many of the candidates in Davidson County’s various judicial races say they’re hearing the same question from voters: “What do all these different courts do?”

Official explanations of each local court’s function aren’t easy to find. But there is well-established custom as to which cases are assigned to which courts.

Here’s a brief description:

♦ For the most part, Davidson County’s three Chancery Courts hear cases dealing with business litigation and lawsuits that deal with local and state government.

♦ The seven existing divisions of Davidson County Circuit Court hear divorce and child-custody cases as well as personal injury and damage suits. It has yet to be determined what kinds of cases the newly created Eighth Circuit Court will hear.

Criminal Court—This is probably the court the public understands the best. People indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury come here for criminal jury trials.

General Sessions Court—This is truly the people’s court, the one where the stakes are smaller. The nine existing General Sessions courts heard a combined 400,000 cases last year, one reason two new divisions have been created. Civil cases involving sums of $15,000 or less are heard here, as are misdemeanor criminal cases. In felony criminal cases, General Sessions courts also decide “probable cause” (the factor that determines whether or not to send cases to the Davidson County Grand Jury). Beyond that, cases dealing with Metro ordinances, such as code violations, are heard in General Sessions Court, as are domestic-violence and environmental cases.—L.M.G.

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