Tennessee Court Tales

Tales of the Tennessee Judiciary: Litigants, Lawyers, and Judges in Tennessee Courts is divided into four alcoves, each featuring two historic Tennessee cases that illustrate how certain principles of Tennessee law were applied, or how the workings of the legal process affected past plaintiffs and defendants.

The alcoves represent the three basic levels that make up the Tennessee Judicial System:  Trial Courts, Appeals Courts, and Supreme Court.  Beginning with cases heard in trial courts, which meet in county courthouses across the state, the next step is either a civil or criminal appeal, where judges are charged with making sure all court proceedings adhere to Tennessee law. Only a select number of cases are unusual enough to come before the next level of appeal, which is the Tennessee Supreme Court. 

Tales of the Tennessee Judiciary features objects and documents for eight historic Tennessee cases. Four of these are landmarks of Tennessee’s judicial history, involving the rights of slaves (Ford v. Ford, 1846); a banking crisis (Townsend v. Townsend, 1821), the reapportionment of voting districts (Kidd v. McCanless, 1955); and a dispute involving two players for rival Tennessee baseball clubs (Averill v. Luttrell, 1957).  The remaining cases, which include three murder convictions and an automobile accident, offer a fascinating look back into legal history. By examining the evidence and using the Interactive Media Program, visitors can learn about historic legal decisions and find out what happened after the cases were resolved.