History of the Knox County Fourth Circuit Court

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Posted: 2016-9-23

In December of 1789, North Carolina offered to the federal government the land we now know as Tennessee.  From 1790 to 1809, the court for the new state was called "Inferior Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions,'' with each county having a justice of the peace.  In 1792, the Hamilton District was created, covering Jefferson and Knox Counties, with two superior courts of law and equity.  The acts of 1809 established circuit courts and a Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals. There were five circuit courts for the state and one judge for each circuit.

Knox county circuit court was held the second Monday in February and August.  James Trimble was the first circuit judge serving Knox County. One of the early offenses heard by Judge Trimble was betting on elections.  Over the next century, the legislature created additional courts, including Chancery and Criminal courts.  A Juvenile Court was created by the Acts of 1913.  The Public Acts of 1965 created the Fourth Circuit Court of Knox County.  The first judge, George S. Child Jr., was elected in August 1966, and elected to an eight year term in 1974. He served until 1982.  Following Judge Child was Judge William Swann, who served until 2014-a total of 32 years. The current judge, Greg McMillan, took the bench in September of 2014.

The Acts of 1913 designated the Court the "Circuit Court, Division IV of the Third Judicial District." It confers concurrent jurisdiction with Divisions I, II, and III in all matters, including litigation and proceedings involving domestic matters.

Over the past 50, the Fourth Circuit Court has had a significant impact on the legal system of Knox County. In fact, through July of this year, the Fourth Circuit Court has seen initial filings and re-opens totaling 160,067.  The courts is best known as the court for orders of protection. Currently, the court is averaging 3,000 cases per year.

Looking at the next 50 years, Fourth Circuit Court will continue to serve Knox County in the same manner of professionalism, integrity, and legal jurisprudence it has shown in the last 50 years.  Knox County recognizes the need to update the office as technology improves.   With that in mind, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has committed the funding for the Fourth Circuit Court Clerk's office to become totally paperless by the end of the fiscal year.