Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Tennessee Judiciary Attends Civil Justice Reform Conference

June 1, 2018

The Tennessee Judiciary was well-represented at the 2018 Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators Southern Region Civil Justice Summit in Little Rock, Arkansas. Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, Justice Holly Kirby, Judge Deborah C. Stevens, Judge Valerie L. Smith and AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate participated in panels from colleagues from 14 other Southern states.

The summit was dedicated to exploring how different states have approached the issue of civil justice reform. Participants were encouraged to take the information they learned and develop their own action plans for use in their respective jurisdictions. The summit consisted of a dynamic mixture of plenary sessions, workshops, and state team planning sessions.

“Modernizing the court system and improving access to justice are at the top of our priority list,” Director Tate said. “We were happy to share our successes with other states and learn from their experiences as well.”

Director Tate served as a moderator at the conference and highlighted several of Tennessee’s initiatives related to civil justice reform. For instance, she provided an overview of the state’s Faith & Justice Alliance, which partners faith-based groups in Tennessee with pro-bono attorneys in an effort to extend legal aid to underserved communities; the success and growth of the Business Court Docket Pilot Project, which was launched by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2015; and the overall reduction in civil cases and improved predictability in outcomes since the passage of the Tennessee Civil Justice Reform Act of 2011. Director Tate’s panel included Marcy Eason, a member at Miller & Martin, PLLC and former chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, and Charles Schneider, associate vice president of government affairs, environment and energy at the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Other topics addressed at the conference include streamlining court processes, expanding the use of e-filing, improving litigant satisfaction, and raising public trust in the judicial system.

In July 2016, the CCJ and COSCA recognized the important needs of litigants in state courts and responded by adopting a set of 13 recommendations focused on making courts affordable, efficient, and fair for all. The National Center for State Courts and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, with the support of the State Justice Institute, are now collaborating on a three-year project to promote implementation of the recommendations around the country. The summit in Little Rock was one of a series of civil justice reform strategic planning workshops for the CCJ and COSCA regional committees taking place as part of the implementation plan.  

To learn more about civil justice reform initiatives on the state level, please visit the Naitonal Center for State Courts Civil Justice website