Supreme Court Sets Effective Dates For New Court Rules

September 3, 2019

The Tennessee Supreme Court set effective dates of October 1, 2019, for rule amendments associated with the 2019 rules package, which the Tennessee House of Representatives approved on August 23, 2019 and the Tennessee Senate approved on March 25, 2019. These rule changes include revisions to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence, Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure.

The rule changes are summarized below. The hyperlinks lead to the Order showing the exact amendments for each rule.

Rules of Evidence. Rule 412. Sex offense cases; relevance of victim’s sexual behavior. This rule governs the admissibility of evidence of a sex crime victim’s sexual history in cases involving certain listed sex crimes. The amendment adds five offenses to which this rule applies: 1) trafficking for a commercial sex act; 2) sexual contact by a minor with an authority figure; 3) aggravated rape of child; 4) statutory rape by an authority figure; and 5) promoting travel for prostitution.

Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 43. Presence of the Defendant. This revision allows contemporaneous public access to a defendant’s initial appearance through an audio-visual device, such as a monitor placed in an area open to the public or live streaming on the internet if the judge is not in a location accessible to the public at the time of the initial appearance.  

Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 4. Process. This amendment clarifies when a plaintiff may obtain a default judgment when the defendant was served by mail. Under the revisions, a default judgment may be entered after service by mail if there is a return receipt showing personal acceptance by the defendant or certain designated persons or a return receipt stating that the addressee or the addressee’s agent refused to accept service. When the defendant is a corporation or any other entity that requires a registered agent, the motion for default must include evidence from the Tennessee Secretary of State that the name of the corporation and the name and address of the registered agent for service of process was correct on the certified mail.

Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 34. Production of documents and things. This amendment requires that objections to requests for production of documents and things be stated with specificity, including the grounds for the objections. Also, any objection must make clear what documents and things, if any, are being withheld under the objection.   

Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure. Rule 109. Orders For The Attachment of Children.  This change adds a new subsection providing that an attachment for violation of pretrial diversion, judicial diversion, probation or home placement supervision should not be issued unless specific criteria are met. This amendment addresses revisions to Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-122(c).

Tennessee Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure. Rule 201. Preliminary Inquiry And Informal Adjustment.  This amendment adds the word “citation” as an alternative to petition in several instances. Several additions to informal adjustments clarify that the child need not admit the allegation and that informal adjustments may not impose any financial obligation on the child. The changes also clarify that statements made during a preliminary inquiry or informal adjustment are not admissible in a delinquent or unruly proceeding.

Tennessee Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure. Rule 202. Pretrial Diversion. The amendment adds that no admission of the allegation is required of the child when determining whether to proceed with a pretrial diversion.

Tennessee Rules of Juvenile Practice and Procedure. Rule 212. Probation Or Home Placement Supervision Violation. An Advisory Commission Comment states that the time for conducting the hearing now runs from the date of the filing of the petition alleging the violation, not the date the child was placed in detention.