Category Archives: Judgments

Tennessee Supreme Court Issues Orders Related to Coronavirus Pandemic

By Daniel Horwitz:

In an effort to keep Tennessee’s judiciary functioning during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tennessee Supreme Court has issued the following orders relating to court operations, CLE, and other proceedings:

Central provisions include that “[d]eadlines set forth in court rules, statutes, ordinances, administrative rules, or otherwise that are set to expire during the period from Friday, March 13, 2020, through Tuesday, May 5, 2020, are hereby extended through Wednesday, May 6, 2020,” and that “[a]ll in-person proceedings in all state and local courts in Tennessee, including but not limited to municipal, juvenile, general sessions, trial, and appellate courts, shall be suspended from the close of business on Friday, March 13, 2020, through Thursday, April 30, 2020” absent certain specified exceptions.

As longtime ScotBlog readers are aware, the author has been socially distancing from this blog’s original purpose—summarizing Tennessee Supreme Court decisions and reflecting on other interesting legal issues in the Volunteer State—for quite some time now due to an exploding speech defense, election law, and wrongful death practice that has left little time for regular commentary. As a result, if you, your associates, or your law students would like to fill that void and publish on a platform that still receives thousands of unique visitors each month despite a delinquent editor, please email Daniel Horwitz at

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Tennessee Supreme Court voids judgment for lack of personal jurisdiction; establishes standard for determining when void judgments are still binding.

By Daniel Horwitz:

After a short marriage, Kevin Turner and Stephanie Turner divorced on October 19, 2000.  Full custody of their two children was awarded to Mr. Turner, and Mrs. Turner was directed to pay Mr. Turner child support.  However, the couple’s divorce decree also provided that Mrs. Turner was entitled to visitation “during such periods of visitation as may be awarded.”

By July 2001, Mrs. Turner had left Tennessee and had lost all contact with Mr. Turner and their children.  Mrs. Turner also failed to pay Mr. Turner any child support, and she stopped seeking visitation.  Consequently, Mr. Turner filed a petition to terminate Mrs. Turner’s parental rights over their children.  Because Mrs. Turner had moved, however, the summons that was issued to alert her of Mr. Turner’s petition was returned undelivered.

Having been unable to provide Mrs. Turner with personal service of his petition to terminate her parental rights, Mr. Turner attempted to give Mrs. Turner “constructive” notice of his petition by publication.  Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 21–1–203(a)(5), personal service is not required “[w]hen the residence of the defendant is unknown and cannot be ascertained upon diligent inquiry.”  However, to be excused from the personal service requirement, a litigant must describe his diligent efforts to provide personal service under oath or in a separate affidavit.[1]  Additionally, a separate statute that applies specifically to parental termination proceedings provides that any request to authorize constructive notice through publication “shall be accompanied by an affidavit of the petitioners or their legal counsel attesting, in detail, to all efforts to determine the identity and whereabouts of the part[y] against whom substituted service is sought.”[2] Continue reading Tennessee Supreme Court voids judgment for lack of personal jurisdiction; establishes standard for determining when void judgments are still binding.