Article III. Adjudicatory and Dispositional Hearings


Rule 27: Trial by the Court.

(a) Conduct of Hearings, Generally.

(1) Juvenile court hearings shall be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of courtroom conduct and deportment which shall be prescribed in writing by local rules. Unless specifically addressed in this rule, or provided for by statute or Tennessee Supreme Court Rule, proceedings, except dependent and neglected cases, shall be open to all persons who are properly concerned. In the discretion of the court, the general public may be excluded from any juvenile or paternity proceeding and only those persons having a direct interest in the case may be admitted.

(2) Proceedings in transfer cases shall be open to the public unless, upon the motion or request of one of the parties or upon the judge’s own initiative, the court, in balancing the respective interests of the parties to privacy and/or to a fair trial and the public’s interest in open judicial proceedings, determines that a proceeding, parts of the proceeding, or phases of the proceeding, should be closed. In balancing the respective interests of the parties the court shall apply the following rules:

(A) The party seeking to close the hearing shall have the burden of proof;

(B) The juvenile court shall not close proceedings to any extent unless it determines that failure to do so would result in particularized prejudice to the party seeking closure that would override the public's compelling interest in open proceedings;

(C) Any order of closure must be no broader than necessary to protect the determined interests of the party seeking closure;

(D) The juvenile court must consider reasonable alternatives to closure of proceedings; and

(E) The juvenile court must make adequate written findings to support any order of closure.

(b) Phases of Hearings. Hearings in juvenile matters shall be conducted in two separate phases, the adjudicatory hearing, and the dispositional hearing, which may be continuous. The court shall first conduct an adjudicatory hearing to determine if the allegations of the petition are sustained. If the allegations of the petition are not sustained the petition shall be dismissed. If the allegations of the petition are sustained, the court may proceed immediately or at a later hearing to the dispositional phase of the proceeding. Pending disposition, the court may enter such order of protection and assistance as the court deems necessary under the circumstances, in the best interest of the child and for the protection of the public.

(c) No Jury Trial. There shall be no trial by jury of any case in juvenile court.

Advisory Commission Comments [2007].

While there is not a specific statutory or case law definition in Tennessee of a “closed hearing,” the Commission recognizes the sensitive nature of juvenile proceedings. A suggested definition of a “closed hearing” is a hearing limited to the parties to the proceeding and to person(s) that the court finds have a direct interest in the proceeding and whose presence at the proceeding is necessary for the proceeding’s full and fair hearing. See T.C.A. §§ 36-1-111, 37-1-124, 37-10-304 and Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 24 for specific proceedings that are closed or open to the public.

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