xt7pzg6g4k2w https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7pzg6g4k2w/data/mets.xml Shelby County, Tennessee Tennessee Historical Records Survey 1939 Prepared by the Tennessee Historical Records Survey, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Work Projects Administration; Tennessee State Library, Sponsor; Other contributors include: United States Work Projects Administration, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Co-sponsored by the Government of Shelby County; 14 pages, 27 cm; Mimeographed; UK holds archival copy for ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program libraries; Call number FW 4.14:T 256/no.2 books English Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee Historical Records Survey This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Tennessee Works Progress Administration Publications History and Organization of the Shelby County Judiciary, Special Publications Series, Number 2 text History and Organization of the Shelby County Judiciary, Special Publications Series, Number 2 1939 1939 2015 true xt7pzg6g4k2w section xt7pzg6g4k2w lmmwm|n HlnlIn1illW
\ 3 GMES HbL.?"l5B G
Special Publications Series
N0, 2
Cc-spcnsered by the Gcvernment cf Shelby County
Prepared by
”* The Tennessee Hieterical Records Survey Prefect
Division of Prefessienal and S,rvice Projects
Work Projects Adminishrebicn
Tennessee State Library, Spenser
Qashv llc, Tennes·ee
’ ,.. Y. l . V ~. . .
at ilie T€1’11’1’3SS’;Q l1]_S'Y}VJl`)_ eel Ju'3UO]T`*l S S¥.lY"»/'(3:/ l’I`O_i}'4 Cl)
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 The Historical Records Survey Program
Luther H. Evans, Director
Dan Lacy, Regional Supervisor
T. Marshall Jones, State Supervisor
Division of Professional and Service Projects )
Florence Kerr, Assistant Commissioner
Blanche N. Ralston, Chief Regional Supervisor
Betty Hunt Luck, State Director
F. C. Harrington, Commissioner
lalcolm J. miller, Reiional Uirector
, », y . . •
Surry S. berry, State Aininzstrator ,1i;;

Although the Historical Records Survey Program has as its chief purposes
the preparation and publication of guides to and inventories of public
archives, church records, early American imprints, manuscripts, and manuscript
. depositories and collections, it has accumulated, as by-products, a con-
¥¥, siderable amount of material and prepared numerous memoranda in the course
` of routine editorial work which, under original plans, would not be indo
L available generally,
Since publication, from time to tire, of various parts of this miscell-
aneous material will not interfere unduly with the regular program of
publication and since some of it may be of general interest and value, the
Survey has decided to institute a series of special publications, making
parts of this material available in substantially the same form as it appears
in our files,
This publication, summarizing legislation regulating the organization
of the state courts of Shelby County, was prepared from a memorandum addressed
to the editors in the State Office of the Survey Project and the field workers
in Shelby County, as a guide in interpreting records not explained by the code
or general law, in the inventory of the archives of that county. The editors
and field workers were already informed of the records requirements and the
structure of the courts under the general law, but because the Shelby County
judiciary was, until 1909, the subject of so much special legislation, re-
Vtl sulting in a great variety of courts and records not found in other counties,
a careful examination of the statutes was necessary before an intelligent in-
ventory of the judicial records of the county could be made,
Only the statutes were drawn on in the preparation of Legal Memorandum
No, 39, from which this article was prepared, and no attempt was made to -
state the effect of judicial interpretation, The records, however, indicate
·that at least all the more important acts were placed in force as scheduled.
The abbreviations "P.A," and "Pr,A," mean Public Acts of the General
Assembly and Private Actslbf the General Assexblyiurespectivekff HTE dates
inildirslmmnunfEndirmthnoujhmlgdg,`thesemofmdnaetment of the statutes and,
beginning in lG70, those of approval by the governor, There is considerable
duplication in the listing of the acts regulating the courts of Shelby
County, carried as an appendix, For example, acts regulating the Criminal
Court of Memphis are also listed under the general Cririnal Court heading,
those regulating the Common Law and Chancery Court of yenphis also under both
the Circuit Court and the Chancery Court, and so on, Cn the other hand, with
a few exceptions, acts are listed under the clerks, judges, and stato's
attorney only when the same acts are not listed under the courts in which
those officers servo,
The Shelby County memorawdun was prepared under the supervision of
_ Madison Bratton, assistant strto supervisor,
: T, Xarshall Jones, Stats Sup rvisor
The Tennessee llstorical Records Survey Project
Hovzmbzr 8, lQ59

Shelby County was created by the legislature on November 24, 1819
v (1), and was organized in May of the next year. For some time after the
organization of the county, all judicial matters which were settled
locally were apparently settled by the judicial branch of the County
Court, then known as the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, for the act
which created Shelby County stated that appeals from the County Court
should be carried to the Circuit Court of Humphreys County (2).
In 1821 the legislature established the eighth judicial circuit which
was composed of several Nest Tennessee counties, including Shelby, but
no mention is made in the act of the court meeting in Shelby County, a1—`
though Henry, Carroll, Henderson, and Madison Counties are mentioned (8),
However, acts of 1825, 1824, 1825, and 1827 fixed the time of
holding of the Shelby County Circuit Court (Q), probably indicating that
the judge of the circuit including Shelby County opened the Circuit Court
of the county under authority of the act of 1825, An act of 1826 directed
that the Circuit Court, at its first term in 1827, should meet at Raleigh
` after the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions had adjourned (5), The
A" oldest surviving Circuit Court record, first entry oooonbor lh, 1828, is
a minute book of the Circuit Court held at Raleigh (6). ‘
Shelby County went without its own Chancery Court for a number of
years, the nearest courts, from 1822 to 1824, being held at Charlotte and
I Columbia (7), From 1824 to 1850 Shelby County was in the chancery divi-
sion the court for which sat at Jackson (8), In 1850 the county was
placed in a chancery district with five other counties, the court meeting
at Bolivar, in Hardeman County (9), The Chancery Court reorganization
act of 1855 made Fayette and Shelby Counties a separate chancory district
of the Western Division, the court to meet at Somerville, in Fayette '
County (10), Other counties were added to this district in 1857 (11).
1. Pr.A. 1819, ch. 146
2. TEE. """
2;. ?`;YC§‘ie21, oh, 42 ‘
4. fhg, 1825, ch, dl; Pr,A, 182e, ex. ses., ch, 102; Pr,A, 1825, ch.
sie; inn. 123277f oa, es, `“"` °"`°”` `°‘" “""
5,-j?F,K:"182G, ex, ses., ch, 150,
G. T53£haE?IHH Circuit Court, Ho. 2, page 1, Moon 505, Shelby County
Courthouse. The wording of the first entry and the fact that the
_ volume is labelled "2" strongly su_{‘;jg·est the probability that there were
,,·· records made prior to 1828, `
7, P.A, 1822, ex, ses., ch, 15, sec, 1, l
F C, E13} IQEE, ex, ses., ch, le, sec, C; Efhf 1827, ch, 79, sec, 5.
9. P.n. 182U-50, ch, 52,
ie,   I2’?E;?»7§, cn, 4,
11. §pts_1E§jE§§, ch, 14, sec, 2.

 _ - 2 -
An ect of 1845 created the "Criminal Court of Shelby County" and gave
it jurisdiction ever all crimes and misdemeanors in the civil districts
B in which Memphis, South Memphis, and Tort Pickering were located. This
" court was to organize in February 1844, The Circuit Court was divestod
of all criminal jurisdiction within these areas {12),
A Chancery Court was apoarently established in Shelby County for the
first time in lay 1846, when Shelby and Tipton Counties were constituted
a separate chancery district, the court to be held at Iemphis (lb).
In 1CdG the "Criminal Court of Shelby County at Memphis", which had
{ been organized in 1844, was given civil jurisdiction in the fifth,
thirteenth, and fourteenth civil districts, which included Ieyphis, r·. South
Memphis, and Fort Pickering. The act did not, however, in any way affect
the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, the two courts apparently exercis-
ing concurrent civil jurisdiction within these areas, The act which gave
the Criminal Court civil jurisdiction also changed the name of thoccurt
to the "Comrercial and Criminal Court of Memphis" (14), Thus the effect
of the act of 184C was to abolish the Criminal Court of Shelby County at
Memphis and to create a new court, the "Cormwrcial and Criminal Court of
Memphis" (15),
. An act of 135C abolished the Commercial and Criwinal Court of
t' Memphis and in its place created the "Comnon Law and Chancery Court of the
City of Memphis," This court was given jurisdiction over all cases at
, law of a criminal, commercial, or civil character in the fifth, thirteenth
and fourteenth civil districts, in which leuphis and Fort Pickering were
located, The court was further given general chancery jurisdiction over
V the entire county, the act apoarently abolishing the established Chancery
Court at kemphis, since it was directed that the records of and the cases
pending in the Chancery Court be transferred to the Common Law and
Chancery Court, The act further directed that the records of the Commer-
cial and Criminal Court of Kemphis be transferred to the Common Law and
Chancery Court of the City of Memphis. This Common Law and Chuncery
Court was divided into two sides, the "Law Side" and the "Chancery Side."
There was one judge, but apparently two clerks (16),
In 1855 the "Cririnal Court of fenphis" was created, the judge to he
elected hy the voters of the fifth, thirteenth, and fourteenth civil
districts, the clerk to by the cler} of tLo Law dile of the Common Lm:
and Chancery Court of jemyhis, The Crininal Court of Iemphis was given
jurisdiction over all crimes and misdenemrors in the fifth, thirteenth,
and fourteenth civil districts, and the Circuit Court of Shelty County
and the Lennon Law and Chancery Court of Memphis were divested of all
t.»~ l2' &E§E.}E$§;££1 °h• z5·
1%  .l§;%fL·;¥;» Ch-  
14, lbid., ch, 14C
' IC. ln—Ejite of their names, all of the courts mentioned in this ncnordn—
dum were state courts, none of th u municipal,
18, nits liiO—ZC, ch, Z1.

 C — 5 -
jurisdiction within these areas. The 1CCS act further clarifiei the
W jurisdiction of the Criminal Court of Kenphis by conferrinj on it all the
'** jurisdiction previously exercised over offenses within these civil dis-
tricts by the Common Law rnd Chancery Court of Memphis, and all eases
¤ pending in the Common Law and Chancery Court of Memphis were transferred
to the newly established Cri;inal Court of Memphis, The court xas to
organize in February 1854 (17),
ln 1858 the office of County Judge was created in Shelby and several
other counties, and the County Judge*s Court - the honthly County Court
or the County Judgc's Probate Court — was vested with jurisdictior over
administration, matters of probate, and related matters previously vested
in the Quorum Court, the judicial branch of the County Court, The
Quorum Court, an agency of the County Court, which had been established
in Shelby County probably sometime between 1820 and 185C, was syecificully
abolished (18).
In 18CC the Coumuui Lau and Chancery Court of the City of Hemuhis was
divided into two parts, “!ho Chsnoery Court of [enphis", and "Ehe Lau
Court of Memphis," The Law Court of jenplis was jiven concurrent civil
jurisdiction with the Circuit Court of Shelby County, The jurisdiction
i of the Chancery Court of lenphis apgarently renained the sane as it had
been under the old Comnon Law and Chancery Court, that is, co-extensive
with the limits of the county, The old Common Lau and Chancery Judge be-
* came chancellor of the new Chancery Court, and the judjc of the Law Court `
was apparently appointed in the sane manner as a regular circuit judge (19).
"The Municipal Court of [emphis" (KD) was created in l8C7, and it
J was given lar *.‘J and crininal jurisdiction in the fifth, thirteenth, and
fourteenth civil districts, in which Memphis, Chelsea, and Fort Pick ring
were located, This court had concurrert lxw jurisdiction with the Law
Court of Jemphis over ell civil cases arisin; out of or fron contracts up
to three hundred dollars, and also appellate jurisdiction by applul or
certiorari from the Justice of tlc Peace courts, and cxelusivl ayyellute
jurisdiction over appeals fre; Llc A,cor&er's or Police Ce;udssiouer's
Court of Kemphis, replacing tlc Lat Court of fezyhis ···· in this last partic-
ulgy, yhg Luniglpgl Court or Xenphis was, further, given exclusive juris-
diction over all crimes, offenses, and nisde carers which carried a
maxinum purishmort of five yoars' inirisonrort, Jhils the Criniual Court
of Mcmnlis retained exclusive jurisdiction of all felonies wlich carried
a maximum imprisonwent of rore than five years, llc Yunicipdl court,
further, was jivcu jurisdiction ov,r all wyqoals Nron Justice of the Pe ce
courts for violations of tl; small ofronscs lww, npoerls fro; the Iunici-
pal Court ley directly to the State Suyr,ne Court (21),
l7, Lets l {5-Lé, 'rri ch. 15,
_ 1;. l*.]`f`1`ffT3i'T, cir; 3;;,
lo. YT.   cir. .;:2, ‘
ZG,     1,. ;:.\mlf¤i,>·‘.l_ ceu‘~"t•
Ll. _{,;. l${C—6T, ch. L",

 C - 4 —
In 1869 jurisdiction over probate and other related judicial matters
s was restored to the Quorum Court which was reestablished by an act which
‘ also abolished the office of County Judge of Shelby County (22),
• In December 1869 the Shelby County judiciary underwent complete re-
construction. The county was constituted the twentieth judicial circuit
and the seventh chancery division, The Circuit Court of Shelby County,
the Law Court of Memphis, the Municipal Court of Memphis, the Chancery
Court of Memphis, and the Criminal Court of Memphis were abolished, In
their place were established the First Circuit Court of Shelby County,
tho Second Circuit Court of Shelby County, the Criminal Court of Shelby
County, the First Chancery Court of Shelby County, and the Second Chancery
Court of Shelby County, In addition, a Circuit Court'having both civil
and criminal jurisdiction was established at Bartlett, The act of 1869
made detailed provision for the distribution of the records of the five
abolished courts; the civil records of the Circuit Court of Shelby County
were to go to the First Circuit Court of Shelby County, the records of the
Law Court of Memphis to the Second Circuit Court of Shelby County, the
civil records of the Municipal Court to the First and Second Circuit Courts
of Shelby County, the records of the Criminal Court of Memphis, and the
criminal records of the Circuit Court of Shelby County and the Municipal
, Court of Memphis to the Criminal Court of Shelby County; and the records
of the Chancery Court of Memphis to the First Chancery Court of Shelby
County (23),
The jurisdiction of all the new courts was county-wide, The two
Circuit Courts were given concurrent civil jurisdiction over all matters
held by the Circuit Courts under the general law, The Criminal Court was
vested with exclusive criminal jurisdiction to the degree possessed by
Circuit Courts under the general law. The two Chancery Courts were vested
with concurrent jurisdiction in equity under the general law, The act
further made provision for the transfer of the unfinished business of the
abolished courts to the new courts which had obtained possession of the
records of the cases pending, The act further provided for settlement of
conflicts over the criminal jurisdiction of the Criminal Court of Shelby
County and the Bartlett Circuit Court, This act was to become effective
after the elections in May l870 (24),
An act of 1870 created a special Probate Court for Shelby County,
this to be a court of record and to consist of one judge, It was given
original jurisdiction over all matters of probate, administration, and
other items embraced by sections 4201-d205 and d208 of the Code of 1858,
and concurrent jurisdiction with the Chancery Court of Shelby County over
persons and estates of persons of unsound mind, guardiwiship, sale and
Q partition, and several other matters, The County Court Clerk of Shelby `
l., County was to be clerk ex—efficie of the newly established Probate Court,
The records of the County Judgo's late Probate Court and the Quorum Court
22; Eph. l869470,`lst ses., ch, 6,
2s. n>l`d;, Ch, 2.8,
24. WE.

 were to be transferred to the new Probate Court of Shelby County (25).
This act, although the jurisdiction of the court has been widened in
“ miscellaneous ways, is still in force.
Another act of 1870 made the judje of the Probate Court of Shelby
‘ County judqe of the Bartlett Circuit Court (26),
In 1875 the civil and criminal 'urisdiction of the Bartlett Circuit
. J .. .
Court was withdrawn frmi the fifth, thirteenth, and fourteenth civil
districts and from within the cornorate limits of hemnhis 27 .
: 1 L
In 1875 the Second Circuit Court of Shelby County was abolished, and
the First Circuit Court, which remained, became "The Circuit Court of
Shelby County" (28),
Also in 1875 the Second Chancery Court of Shelby County was abolished
end the First Chancery`Court, which remained, became "The Chancery Court
of Shelby County" (29).
The jurisdiction of the Lartlett Circuit Court was further limited
in 1879 when it was withdrawn from all parts of the county south of Wolf
River (BO),
The demolition of the Bartlett Circuit Court was completed in 1885
when the court was abolished, and its civil records transferred to the
~~ Circuit Court of Shelbv Countv and its criminal records to the Criminal
•/ " c
Court of Shelby County (El).
ln l8Q5 a Second Circuit Court of Shelbj County was established,
This newly established court was granted exclusive jurisdiction of all
Justice of the Peace appeals and concurrent jurisdiction with the estab-
lished Circuit Court of Shelby County over divorces (32),
A supplementary statute of 1SDo wade the judge of the Slelby County
Probate Court judge of the newly created Second Circuit Court of Shelby
County (36),
ln 1CUL the Chancery Cnurt of STelbf Count] was divided into Part l
and Tart ll, the two tarts Laviuj concurrent jurisdiction in equity.
Complainant could bring suit in either yart (Si}, This act was repealed
EQ. Acts 1859-7C, End sos., ch. CC.
Ei, Ibid., ch, SB.
2%. nots li 5, ch, CJ.
. UU. nets lc7U, ch. ZL.
,_ lee, _I`bi`, S11. 51 IRT.? 1E61T62_Y,` S11, 2:1
@1*1:  S11, 88     011. 49
PrT11.`1I?iE`E;'0, S11, 116 2.;. 1222-121;, S11, 32
WT   S11. 49 $:21-;;- 2;1‘£:;‘1?.» M   Ch- 105
2`Ji,   S11, 32   1666-67, C11. /10
R-J3.   1st s;s,, ch, 28 1;.;.   011, 4
Icts IYTGYTIFFO`, 21111 202,, C11, {G2 13.;, 1·;c1—6Y7, ch, 25
    2nd ses., ch, /17     lst S°5•> Ch' 23
.• £q§§'1870—'71, 2116 03;, $113,, ugh &g     2nd sas., ch. 31
Acts 1675;, S11,    };gjjg71.·, und ccs., ch. 46
    Sp;. SSS., S11, 2O   }_$69··T7§. Wd SGS-, ¤h· 62
  1257*, S11, 22 gqjg }§§J_··j}_, 21111 ex. SSS., S11. 22
  S11, 64 _!1<>ji_s   O}"L• 68

 I - 1;; ..
Acts 1905, ch. 158 ‘
  1907, ch, 571 IAA, 1857-58, ch, 58
_1j‘_{‘_.£. 19153 Oh. 249 £1_<;E_s_185Qi_/2, 1st scs,, ch. G
§g;.§_. 1917, Ch. 456 P,A, 18G9·70, End ses., ch. 86
Pr.A. 1925, ch, 417 """ “"“"""‘
P`1~`.1’1. 1925, ch, 451 _
CIRCUIT COURT CLIQRK f4_O·;§- 3_g?5-[;4, Ch, 55
0 Acts 1845-48, ch. 21
13;-};- 1_Q_i’g§_, ch- 610  1545-45, 611, 145
,_   1'ZEET5`4, 611, 15
' __ __ 1*,];, 11157-563, ch, 98
CIIICOIT JUDGE jsjy; @@3:37, Ch, ,15
PJ;. 1888-6Q, ch. 25
§_1;_.f;. @66-66, 2116 GX. SGS., I>`,Tf, 1T;IC'JT'TO', Ist 565,, ch. 28
Gb- 159 115*56 18GQ-70, 2115 665., 611; 51
!L0tS_ _1_@_Q_1__, ch. 140 Y§`€5`s` tc'?}-7K}, 2311d scs., ch, 46
Acts 1885, ch, 355 V
Acts 1885, cx, scs., ch. EO
      §(-,*63 E3-Q5, (gh.  
  ££0;s_19O1, ch.  
12.1;. 1305, ch. G10 Acts 1997, ch. 351
14,1,. 1955, 611; 601   '”"150‘0`, C11. 445
  1_9_5_5_, ch. 497   1925, 011. 417
COTIIUIILCIAL /1511 CRIIQIETAIT COURT OF c};1j3;gi1L/1;, CU!T'*`·i`g_` C1;»:PIi
IT,./4. 1955, 011. CIO
Acts 1545-11g, 011, 145     ,,1-,_ ml
Acts 1849-50, ch, 51 `-" N “_"
C=,,1,I.iO1‘§ 1,1121 AID C1-L‘1‘ECi;Ri¤;’ COURT OF
. i—.YB1J’111S Acts 1007, 611, 551
P J 18/ I) FO 1 Nl Acts   c}·, 6/15
ACES 11.-q , (3.1. 0
Acts 1855-54, ch, 13

 I - 15 -
;gq_;__1gg_Oj_, Ch, 251 P.1‘1. 1860-70, lst CCC,, C11, 28
£~;=1¤5· 1299% Ch- 445 mm ””"m
P.1`1, 1869-70, lst sas., ch. 28
RCEC 11152-s<1, C11. 15 KC‘6C 1875, C11, 25
P.11:18E-E-;·—E>§-, C11. 25
lag, -1869-7-C1, lst SCS., ch. 28
" " JURY CO1—.1·.IISSIO11‘
CRI1·,;I11./IL COWT OF SHELBY COUNTY Acts 1001, C11. 124
I*C?{;`§"1©T>`7, C11. 220
IICJCC 1845-44, C11, 25 IEEE WW, C11, CC1
  ID‘@Z?1“E, C11. Bl 1¤1TT."1DI`1, C11,  
Acts   C11, 1415 IFJ?. 1‘"'.1f'. l`§l`1`, C11, 58
  C11, S26   1*517, C11, 20%
PKYZNIETI, C11, 525 `15`QT,   C11,  
  191-5, C11, IC7     C11, 752
    C11, 270 ‘1I1»i‘1‘1."I‘@TT1, C11. 107
  1`§T'7, C11, Z9 " " ""
Pl`.l`;, 1Cf17, 011. *148
FEE?. HW, C11, 40C   0C·11;11· C1?  -1"}llS
  `1°C`IT¤5, C11, 200
  TEE, CR, 273 gy;.   C11.  
  B21, C11, 522   ICC<;-C7, C11, In
T?·`,K, ITTZZ`, C}·1__ 306 17,7:, 1YlYT·$7U_, 1:11; $0:;., C11, 28
  1025, C11., 1101 "" """`“"`
_     C11, 1120
  Tp?} C1-__ 7(14 :UI12ICI1>.;L CCCRI O1? 1.;;1i1>1:1iS
  102*5, C11, :121
, "" "“ R.; IOOO-C7, C11, QC
  _17‘iCYlJ-70, lab CCC., C11, 212
IT1`~1'C‘E1=Q1E 1-"iO1Z1‘OR M   mM'·_`
    C11. liil

 I - 14 -
I P.A. 1857-58, ch, 58 gcts 1875, ch, 25
§.§, l_8V“_8F%;70, lst scs,, ch, G     ch, 62
· Acts 1869-70, 2nd scs,, ch, 86 Acts 1895, ch, 99
1 1;¤1;S `1's's‘9, C1-1; 186 ;J¤`+}`S Tam, C11, 90
Acts 1895, ch, 82 Acts 1905, ch, 102
Acts 1905, ch, 102 Acts 1905, ch. 157
Acts 1905, ch, 158 Acts 1905, ch, 158
Pr,;. 1925, ch, 185 ,
    ¤11· 119
Exféy 1955, ch. 179
E5);. 1955, ch, 180
Pr,L, 1955, ch, 181
??]H] 1L5c, ch, 182
Pr,A. 1955, ch, 407
Pr,A, 1955, ch, 810
, Pr,£, 1955, ch, 891
Acts 1895, ch, 82
Acts 1901, ch, 110
" gets 1905, ch, 158
§£,£, 1917, ch, G9
P.£. 1857-58, ch, 58
E,A, 1889-70, lst scs., ch, G
Acts 1889-70, 2nd scs., ch, 88
§.&. 1889-70, lst scc., ch. 28
, Acts 1875, ch, 25
P.L, 1889-70, lst scc., ch, 28

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