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Nashville courts to suspend most non-essential hearings as pandemic worsens

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Posted at 6:57 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 19:57:08-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Davidson County General Sessions Court judges plan to suspend most non-essential hearings under pressure from the Metro Nashville health department and Mayor John Cooper to limit the potential exposure to COVID-19.

A source with direct knowledge of the decision told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that judges voted late Thursday to postpone most non-essential hearings for 90 days, given bleak predictions for the next three months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details are expected to be announced Friday afternoon, with the new schedule taking effect next week, the source said.

This week, photos on social media highlighted growing concerns about crowded hallways inside the Justice A.A. Birch Building where General Sessions court sessions are held.

On Wednesday, Cooper's chief of operations, Kristin Wilson, warned in an email that the Metro health department had concluded that "there is not an appropriate level of safety and compliance with the Public Health orders" at the Birch Building.

"To be clear," Wilson added, "the current situation at Birch is not acceptable to Public Health or Mayor John Cooper, and swift resolution on the part of the Judges, Court Administrators, DCSO (Davidson County Sheriff's Office) and all stakeholders is anticipated."

General Sessions Court Administrator Kyle Sowell had warned the judges Thursday morning about a potential intervention.

"It seemingly has reached the point where Metro Public Health is ready to step in and take action unless a swift resolution to the overcrowding can be found," Sowell said in an email.

Presiding Judge Sam Coleman did not return NewsChannel 5's call requesting comment.