MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday a plan to reopen the county’s courthouses under guidance from Presiding Judge Kathleen Gomes.
The sheriff’s office is responsible for security at 54 courtrooms in the three Shelby County courthouses, which house the Criminal Courts, Chancery Courts, Circuit Courts, Probate Courts, Juvenile Court, the General Sessions Criminal and Civil Courts as well as the judges, clerks, the district attorney general, the public defender, the sheriff’s office and a number of other support personnel.
The Memphis Police Department provides security for the three City of Memphis courts in the Criminal Justice Center.
Some of the Shelby County courthouses could reopen as early as next week with approval from the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Once the courthouses reopen, everyone will be required to wear a face covering. If someone is unable or refuses to wear a face covering, they’ll have to contact the applicable Court Clerk’s office to say they are unable to attend court, according to SCSO.
Signs are posted prohibiting anyone who is ill or with symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the building. According to SCSO, those people will also be asked to notify the Court Clerk’s office that they are unable to attend court.
Only people directly impacted by litigation are allowed inside the building, including litigants, victims and witnesses. Children who are not involved in the litigation will not be allowed inside.
The following are the entry and exit plans for the three courthouses:
Criminal Justice Center
- Generals Sessions Courts Divisions 7-13, 15, and Memphis City Courts: Entry and exit will be on Washington Avenue at the southwest doors, which have traditionally been used for public entry. These doors are immediately off the sidewalk.
- Criminal Court Divisions 1–10, General Sessions Divisions 14, Environmental Court, and Division 25 (Orders of Protection and Drug Court Preliminary Hearings): Entry and exit will be on Poplar Avenue at the northwest doors. These doors are immediately off the sidewalk.
- People with special needs due to disabilities, age and other conditions will be allowed entry at the most accessible entrance.
- Every entrance and exit currently open will remain open. Sheriff’s Office personnel will verbally direct visitors to the area of the courts or office they are seeking.
- Entrance is restricted to Washington Avenue except for those with disabilities or special needs who may enter on Adams Avenue.