Tennessee Supreme Court Issues Statement on Commitment to Equal Justice

June 25, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued the following statement on its commitment to equal justice:

The Latin phrase that adorns the seal of the judiciary for the State of Tennessee means, “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”  In many instances over the past few months, it seemed the sky was falling. In March, hundreds in middle Tennessee suffered the most devastating tornado to hit the area in twenty years. Only days later, Covid-19 officially was named a pandemic, and we sought to navigate for the first time what “open courts” look like during a massive health crisis. Recently, a series of tragic deaths have reminded us that racism and injustice remain a mortal threat to the lives of Black people in our country.

Racism still exists and has no place in our society. Upon entering service in the judiciary, we swore to uphold the constitutions of the State of Tennessee and the United States. Thus, it is our moral obligation and our sworn duty to ensure that the people of Tennessee receive equal protection of its laws. Justice must be for all. 

To do our part, we have provided training to Tennessee judges on implicit bias, and we will continue to do so. Our commitment to equal justice led the Supreme Court over ten years ago to establish the Access to Justice Commission. In light of recent events, the Access to Justice Commission is already having conversations about racism in the justice system and the importance of assuring the public of the judiciary’s commitment to access, fairness, and justice for all. We are directing the Commission to establish a new initiative to identify and eliminate barriers to racial and ethnic fairness and justice. The Access to Justice Commission will lead the search for and advise the Court about how to accomplish change in areas of education and training, our judicial environment, and court policies and procedures that in any way lead to racial bias.

We are striving toward a better tomorrow, and know there is much more work to do. Change is needed and only can happen through listening, as well as valuing and respecting a myriad of voices with different perspectives and views. Our commitment today is another step in what will be a long, sustained journey.