House approves moving state cases out of Nashville

A bill moving jurisdiction for lawsuits challenging state law out of the state capital of Nashville moved one step closer to passage Thursday.

The state House approved the measure on a 69-21 vote. The bill still awaits a committee hearing and passage in the Senate.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Johnny Garrett of Sumner County, the proposed law would move original jurisdiction for lawsuits against the state to the plaintiff’s home county. In cases where the plaintiff is located outside of Tennessee, suits would be filed in Sumner County.

Asked why he picked his home county for out-of-state cases, Garrett said, “The question should be why not.”

Garrett, an attorney for Nashville-based Bone McAllester Norton, said he did not consider any of the state’s other 94 counties for the out-of-state jurisdiction and did not offer any specific reasons for the change.

Supporters of the bill cited the difficulty for plaintiffs forced to travel to Nashville to litigate cases against the state. The measure also follows blowback from the Republican-dominated legislature over decisions by Nashville judges in state cases. An effort to remove Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, who ruled against the state on voting cases in 2020, failed earlier this session.

Though legislative analysts said there is no expected cost for the change, Nashville lawmakers opposed to it questioned the practicality of sending state attorneys, based in Nashville, around the state to try cases.

“Our government is across this great state, not just in Nashville,” Garrett said.

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