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State bill wants to move constitutional cases against Tennessee laws out of Davidson County

March 17, 2021 – The Tennessean by: Mariah Timms – A Tennessee Republican lawmaker wants to move lawsuits against the state out of Davidson County. 

Currently, if someone wishes to file a suit claiming state laws or actions are unconstitutional, they must do so in the state’s capital. A new proposal wants to change that to allow Tennessee residents to file grievances against the state in their home counties. 

Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, noted that in other types of lawsuits, plaintiffs can file either in their county of residence or that of the defendant. He argued Tuesday before the state House Civil Justice subcommittee that Tennessee plaintiffs should be able to sue the state in their county of residence.

Garrett is sponsoring HB1196. It is sponsored in the state senate as SB0454 by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.

The proposal would also change the venue for non-Tennessee residents wanting to sue the state, moving that venue to Sumner County.

“Why Sumner County?” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, asked Tuesday.  “Why not?” Garrett replied. 

“The reason we had Davidson County is because this is where the capital is located. This is where the state’s attorneys are based out of,” Clemmons said Tuesday. “I don’t understand the logic of pulling the venue out of Davidson County under this circumstance, specifically just picking arbitrarily Sumner County for foreign residents. I’ve yet to see the logic or reason for that.”

The subcommittee voted Tuesday to move the bill forward to the Civil Justice Committee. 

If passed, the bill could scatter cases against the state, in some situations to more conservative counties across Tennessee. 

Tuesday’s hearing on the proposal comes just a week after a separate push to remove a Davidson County judge from the bench.

Tennessee Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, who chairs the House subcommittee on elections and campaign finance, pushed to remove Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle for a 2020 ruling he deemed judicial overreach.

Lyle ruled to expand absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic in a case filed in Davidson County against the state’s policies.

Rudd’s push drew condemnation from members of the legal community concerned it is a threat to the independence of the state’s judicial system. The effort failed in the same House Civil Justice subcommittee last week. 



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