Tennessee courts will look to put filings online



(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s Advisory Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure decided to start a committee looking into rules to make court briefs available online moving forward.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Dwight Tarwater will chair the committee, which will include commission Chairman Gino Bulso, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Greenholtz, former Solicitor General Andree Blumstein and attorney Tim Mickel.

Tarwater said he was assigned to look into the topic by Chief Justice Holly M. Kirby after both the Court of Appeals and Tennessee Supreme Court receives requests for copies of briefs.

“The time has come to make our filings available online,” Tarwater said.

The rules will need to include redaction policies, responsibility for redactions and how to handle confidential information, Tarwater said.

The Administrator of the Courts will determine how the access would be provided and how long of a backlog of files would be available.

“It’s a more complicated issues than you might think,” Tarwater said.

The quarterly commission meeting was available online after being forced open after a March 2023 preliminary injunction in a lawsuit from The Center Square Vice President of News and Content Dan McCaleb.

McCaleb is represented by the Liberty Justice Center.

The group also livestreamed its December and April meetings.

McCaleb sued on First Amendment grounds to open the meetings, where the committee discusses court rule changes that it will recommend the Tennessee General Assembly pass.

Tennessee Administrator of Courts Director Michelle Long and the department have continued to fight the lawsuit through the Tennessee Attorney General’s office in an attempt to close the meetings.

The commission voted at its June meeting to push to allow courts to retain alternate jurors even after deliberations begin in a criminal case so cases do not have to be delayed or declared a mistrial if a juror becomes ill or is unable to continue after deliberations have begun in a case.

If an alternate juror needs to be used, deliberations have to begin anew.

The commission plans to meet again at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13, when it is expected to hear the proposal on putting filings online.

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