History of Environmental Court

In 1983, the City of Memphis created the Shelby County Environmental Court, a new division of City Court to handle violations of its health, fire, building, and zoning codes. By centralizing ordinance violation cases before one judge, the Environmental Court gained the ability to readily and specifically respond to our community’s environmental needs.

In 1991, the Tennessee Legislature created the Shelby County Environmental Court and gave it the authority to issue conjunctive orders in aid of its jurisdiction. See Enabling Legislation. The Court could now order compliance with the law, both to remedy the problem at hand and to prevent future violations from arising. If defendants disobey the Court’s orders, they may be held in contempt of court, with the possibility of a 10-day jail sentence.

In 2000, the Environmental Court pioneered the use of community courts to address problem properties at close range. Community courts are located in the Memphis neighborhoods of Frayser, Orange Mound, Whitehaven, and Hickory Hill.

Since 2001, the Environmental Court has heard all cases brought under the Abatement of Nuisances Statute. Under this authority, the Court has ordered the closing of dozens of crack houses, strip clubs, apartment complexes, and other entities deemed to constitute a public nuisance.

Since 2007, the Environmental Court has heard cases violating the Neighborhood Preservation Act, which addresses substandard vacant buildings that have become public nuisances.