Hamilton County courts start easing restrictions on in-person proceedings

Public access still limited for most courts

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, Assistant Prosecutor Crystle Carrion and defense attorney Amanda Dunn speak with Judge Don Poole during a criminal trial Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Judge Don Poole's courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn.

After two months, courts in Hamilton County are starting to ease their restrictions on in-person proceedings, some more so than others and at different paces. But accommodations for public access still are either nonexistent or limiting in most courtrooms.

Since March 13, most in-person court proceedings - for criminal, civil and juvenile courts - have been put on hold after the Tennessee Supreme Court declared a state of emergency for the state's judicial branch in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult for the public to view proceedings. Similar scenarios have played out across the country.

In Tennessee, the state's highest court has since asked each judicial district to submit a plan for how its respective courts plan to gradually re-open.

Overall, most of Hamilton County's larger courts - criminal, general sessions (civil and criminal divisions), circuit and chancery - are continuing to emphasize a preference for remote proceedings.