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Juvenile Courts

The general sessions court, except those with a special juvenile court established by private act, has juvenile court jurisdiction.  T.C.A. § 37-1-203. Every court having juvenile jurisdiction must have a sign in a conspicuous place identifying it as "Juvenile Court."  T.C.A. § 37-1-206. The general sessions court when acting as juvenile court has the Title and style of "Juvenile Court of ____________ County." T.C.A. § 37-1-204.  However, the legislature did not intend to make the juvenile court a general sessions court. The intent was to transfer juvenile court jurisdiction to the general sessions court and to make the general sessions court a juvenile court when the subject matter before the court was within the jurisdiction conferred upon juvenile courts. State ex rel. Winberry v. Brooks, 670 S.W.2d 631 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1984). Only general sessions judges who are licensed to practice law in Tennessee may order commitment of a juvenile to the Department of Correction. T.C.A. § 37-1-203. If the judge is not licensed to practice in Tennessee, a lawyer-referee is appointed to handle such matters. T.C.A. § 37-1-107. The juvenile court has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit and chancery court of proceedings arising from the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. T.C.A. § 37-1-104.

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-702, juvenile judges are authorized to establish a teen court program. The teen court is given the authority to conduct proceedings, receive evidence, hear testimony related to the dispositional stage and recommend disposition of the case. For any particular case, the teen court consists of five teen members chosen from a panel of 12 or more teenagers appointed by the juvenile court judge.