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Tennessee Courts of Appeal

The state of Tennessee has split its Courts of Appeal into two divisions, one for civil cases and the other to exclusively handle criminal appeals.

Tennessee Court of Appeals

The Tennessee Court of Appeals was created in 1925 by the General Assembly to assist the Supreme Court with the caseload. They hear only civil appeals from trial courts and some state boards and commissions. The Court of Appeals in Tennessee has 12 judges who sit in panels of three. They meet monthly in the towns of Jackson, Knoxville, and Nashville. They can, on occasion, meet in other locations if necessary. Cases that are appealed from the Court of Appeals must go through the Supreme Court. Judges do not hold trials they simply review oral arguments and briefs prepared by each side. Judges are elected on a “retain-replace” ballot for an eight-year term.

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

The legislature of Tennessee created the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1967 to focus solely on criminal appeals for felony and misdemeanor cases along with post-conviction petitions. In 1996, the General Assembly approved an increase from 9 to 12 judges. Tennessee’s Court of Criminal Appeal judges sit in panels of three in the towns of Jackson, Knoxville, and Nashville, but they can meet in other locations if necessary. Just like the Court of Appeals judges, these judges are elected on a “retain-replace” ballot and serve eight-year terms. Appeals that come from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals must go to the Supreme Court for review. The only exception to this is capital offense cases which automatically go to the Supreme Court. This court does not use juries or hear trials; they simply review oral arguments and briefs prepared by each side to ensure no errors were made during the initial trial.

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