In the past several years, general sessions judges have made headlines for illegal behavior such as bribery, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, judicial ethics violations, obvious lapses of judgment, and even suspect and unconstitutional behavior. This misconduct from the bench hurts society’s trust in the judiciary, but the damage is not merely academic. Judicial misconduct also does very real and immediately applicable damage to the people directly involved in criminal cases: victims who may never see justice, and those accused of crimes whose very future depends on an impartial administration of justice. That is an unfortunate state of affairs for Tennessee’s general sessions courts because they serve several important functions, particularly in criminal cases. General sessions courts make initial bail decisions, hold preliminary hearings, evidentiary hearings, and are responsible for adjudicating the vast majority of misdemeanor cases. These courts are not considered courts of record, and in spite of the importance of these courts to the judicial system, they are largely insulated from appellate review. This article traces the history and development of the general sessions courts and makes an argument for reforming these valuable tribunals to improve the quality of these courts and take advantage of their potential.
How to Make Better Sessions Judges: Appellate Review A Proposal to Reform Tennessee’s General Sessions Courts for the 21st Century,
Lincoln Mem’l U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmunet.edu/lmulrev/vol8/iss1/2