General Sessions Court hears misdemeanor cases, punishable by a maximum 11 months and 29 days in jail. This court also reviews bonds, oversees probate (settling of estates), and the resolution of THP-issued tickets. Preliminary hearings in felony cases are held in General Sessions Court. This is also small claims court, where the award limit is $25,000.
Judge Mike Harris was elected to his first eight-year term in August 2022.
Appointed by previous Judge Patty McGuire, Juvenile Magistrate Ashley Dunkin has jurisdiction over custody and child support matters when the parents are not married; cases involving allegation of dependency and neglect of children; and cases alleging that a child is unruly and/or delinquent.
Lawrence County is part of the 22nd Judicial District, which also includes Wayne, Giles, and Maury counties. Four Circuit Judges serve this district: David Allen, Caleb Bayless, J. Russell Parkes and Chris Sockwell.
Circuit Judges are elected to serve eight-year terms. If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement from a list generated by the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission. The replacement fills the remainder of the unexpired term, then runs in the next general election.
Circuit judges are assigned to one of the four counties for one year, then move on to another county in the district. They hear felony cases, which are punishable by more than a year in jail.
Even after a Circuit Judge completes his/her year in Lawrence County, he/she returns for probation and parole violation cases. All four Circuit judges come to Lawrence County two days a month for Chancery Court. This includes civil suits seeking over $25,000, divorce and custody hearings, and property issues.
In addition to presiding over trials, judges approve plea agreements, hold pretrial hearings and hear motions filed by attorneys on behalf of their clients.
Circuit Judge David Allen was appointed on June 17, 2015 by Governor Bill Haslam to replace the retired Judge Jim Travis Hamilton. Allen won the partial term unopposed on August 4, 2016 and was elected to a six-year term. He was re-elected to a full eight-year term in August 2022.
Circuit Judge Caleb Bayless was elected to his first eight-year term in August 2022.
Circuit Judge J. Russell Parkes was appointed to the court by Governor Bill Haslam on November 17, 2014, to fill the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Robert L. Holloway to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Parkes won the partial term unopposed on August 4, 2016. He was elected to a six-year term. He was re-elected to a full eight-year term in August 2022.
Circuit Judge Christopher Sockwell was appointed to the court by Governor Bill Haslam on November 15, 2018, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Robert Jones. He was elected without opposition in August, 2020. He was re-elected for a full eight-year term in August 2022.