The Clerk & Master
Donna L. Russell
Clerk and Master
Authority & Duties
The Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court, in addition to all the duties and powers conferred upon Clerks of the Courts generally and to various other special duties and powers, is “authorized to perform all the functions of Masters in Chancery, unless restrained by the provisions of law” so that they are both Clerk and Master (Tennessee Code Annotated 18-5-103).
The duties of a clerk are almost exclusively clerical; and this office's powers are strictly defined by law and the orders of the court. The clerk exercises no judicial functions and has but little discretion. The master, on the contrary, is a judicial officer and is clothed with many powers of the chancellor himself ("Gibson’s Suits in Chancery, 5th Edition," Gibson 1955, Chapter LXVI, sec. 1222).
- Clerk and Master: The clerk acts as the principal administrative aide to the Chancery Court and provides assistance in the areas of courtroom administration and records management, docket maintenance, revenue management, maintenance of court minutes, official communication, and various other court-associated duties (Tennessee Constitution Annotated 18-1-105, 18-2-101 et seq. and 18-5-102 et seq.). The clerk is appointed by a majority of the chancellors for a six-year term.
- Jurisdiction of the Chancery Court: The General Assembly determines the Chancery Court’s jurisdiction, and may increase, decrease or alter its jurisdiction (TENN. CONST. Art. VI, 8). Chancery courts “shall have all the powers, privileges and jurisdiction properly and rightfully incident to a court of equity” (T.C.A. 16-11-101). This inherent jurisdiction is original and exclusive in cases of an equitable nature.
- Concurrent Jurisdiction of Chancery and Circuit Courts: Chancery Court has concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Court to hear “all civil cases of action, triable in Circuit Court, except for unliquidated damages for injuries to person or character, and except for unliquidated damages for injuries to property not resulting from a breach of oral or written contract” (T.C.A. 18-1-105).
The Tennessee Constitution, Article VI, Section 13, provides that the Clerk & Master is appointed for a term of six years by the Chancellor of the county. (T.C.A. 18-5-101). The term of office begins with the date of appointment and extends for six years thereafter, unless it is interrupted by death, removal, or resignation, in which case a new Clerk & Master is appointed for a term of six years beginning with the date of appointment. (T.C.A. 18-2-213, b). If no reappointment is made at the end of the term, the Clerk & Master holds over until the position is filled. 639 S.W. 2d, 440 & 680 S.W. 2d, 215.