United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

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United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
(M.D. Tenn.)
MDTenn map.PNG
Appeals to Sixth Circuit
Established June 18, 1839
Judges assigned 4
Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr.
Official court website

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (in case citations, M.D. Tenn.) is the federal trial court for most of Middle Tennessee. Based at the Estes Kefauver Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Nashville, it was created in 1839 when Congress added a third district to the state. Tennessee—along with Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan—is located within the area covered by United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and appeals are taken to that court (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit).

Since March 11, 2017 John L. Smith has been the Acting United States Attorney.

The Middle District has three divisions. (1) The Columbia Division comprises the counties of Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Marshall, Maury, and Wayne. (2) The Northeastern Division comprises the counties of Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, and White. (3) The Nashville Division comprises the counties of Cannon, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson, and Wilson.


The United States District Court for the District of Tennessee was established with one judgeship on January 31, 1797, by 1 Stat. 496.[1][2] The judgeship was filled by President George Washington's appointment of John McNairy. Since Congress failed to assign the district to a circuit, the court had the jurisdiction of both a district court and a circuit court. Appeals from this one district court went directly to the United States Supreme Court.

On February 13, 1801, in the famous " Midnight Judges" Act of 1801, 2 Stat. 89, Congress abolished the U.S. district court in Tennessee,[2] and expanded the number of circuits to six, provided for independent circuit court judgeships, and abolished the necessity of Supreme Court Justices riding the circuits. It was this legislation which created the grandfather of the present Sixth Circuit. The act provided for a "Sixth Circuit" comprising two districts in the State of Tennessee, one district in the State of Kentucky and one district, called the Ohio District, composed of the Ohio and Indiana territories (the latter including the present State of Michigan). The new Sixth Circuit Court was to be held at "Bairdstown" in the District of Kentucky, at Knoxville in the District of East Tennessee, at Nashville in the District of West Tennessee, and at Cincinnati in the District of Ohio. Unlike the other circuits which were provided with three circuit judges, the Sixth Circuit was to have only one circuit judge with district judges from Kentucky and Tennessee comprising the rest of the court. Any two judges constituted a quorum. New circuit judgeships were to be created as district judgeships in Kentucky and Tennessee became vacant.[3]

The repeal of this Act restored the District on March 8, 1802, 2 Stat. 132.[2] The District was divided into the Eastern and Western Districts on April 29, 1802.[1] On February 24, 1807, Congress again abolished the two districts and created the United States Circuit for the District of Tennessee. On March 3, 1837, Congress assigned the judicial district of Tennessee to the Eighth Circuit. On June 18, 1839, by 5 Stat. 313, Congress divided Tennessee into three districts, Eastern, Middle, and Western.[1][2][4] Again, only one judgeship was allotted for all three districts. On July 15, 1862, Congress reassigned appellate jurisdiction to the Sixth Circuit. Finally, on June 14, 1878, Congress authorized a separate judgeship for the Western District of Tennessee, at which time President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed David M. Key as judge for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee. The first judge to serve only the Middle District of Tennessee was John J. Gore, appointed by Warren G. Harding.

Current composition of the court[edit]

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
22 Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. Nashville 1956 2016–present 2017–present Obama
19 District Judge Aleta Arthur Trauger Nashville 1945 1998–present Clinton
23 District Judge vacant
24 District Judge vacant
14 Senior Judge Thomas Anderton Wiseman Jr. Nashville 1930 1978–2003 1984–1991 1995–present Carter
15 Senior Judge John Trice Nixon Nashville 1933 1980–1998 1991–1998 1998–present Carter
16 Senior Judge Thomas Aquinas Higgins inactive 1932 1984–1999 1999–present Reagan

Vacancies and pending nominations[edit]

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
5 Todd J. Campbell Retirement December 1, 2016 Eli J. Richardson July 13, 2017
7 Kevin H. Sharp Resignation April 15, 2017 William L. Campbell, Jr. July 13, 2017

Former Judges[edit]

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Brown, Morgan WellesMorgan Welles Brown TN 1800–1853 1839–1853 Jackson, Jackson death
2 Humphreys, West HughesWest Hughes Humphreys TN 1806–1882 1853–1862 Pierce, Pierce impeachment and conviction
3 Trigg, Connally FindlayConnally Findlay Trigg TN 1810–1880 1862–1880 Lincoln, Lincoln death
4 Key, David M.David M. Key TN 1824–1900 1880–1895 Hayes, Hayes retirement
5 Clark, Charles DickensCharles Dickens Clark TN 1847–1908 1895–1908 Cleveland, Cleveland death
6 Sanford, Edward TerryEdward Terry Sanford TN 1865–1930 1908–1923 Roosevelt, T.T. Roosevelt appointment to Supreme Court
7 Gore, John J.John J. Gore TN 1878–1939 1923–1939 Harding, Harding death
8 Hicks, XenophonXenophon Hicks TN 1872–1952 1923–1928 Harding, Harding appointment to 6th Cir.
9 Darr, Leslie RogersLeslie Rogers Darr TN 1886–1967 1939–1940 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt seat abolished
10 Davies, Elmer DavidElmer David Davies TN 1899–1957 1939–1957 1954–1957 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt death
11 Miller, William ErnestWilliam Ernest Miller TN 1908–1976 1955–1970 1961–1970 Eisenhower, Eisenhower appointment to 6th Cir.
12 Gray, Jr., FrankFrank Gray, Jr. TN 1908–1978 1961–1977[Note 1] 1970–1977 1977–1978 Kennedy, Kennedy death
13 Morton, Leland ClureLeland Clure Morton TN 1916–1998 1970–1984 1977–1984 1984–1998 Nixon, Nixon death
17 Echols, Robert L.Robert L. Echols TN 1941–present 1992–2007 1998–2005 2007–2010 Bush, G.H.W.G.H.W. Bush retirement
18 Campbell, Todd J.Todd J. Campbell TN 1956–present 1995–2016 2005–2012 Clinton, Clinton retirement
20 Haynes Jr., William JosephWilliam Joseph Haynes Jr. TN 1949–present 1999–2014 2012–2014 2014–2017 Clinton, Clinton retirement
21 Sharp, Kevin H.Kevin H. Sharp TN 1963–present 2011–2017 2014–2017 Obama Obama resignation
  1. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 15, 1962, confirmed by the United States Senate on February 7, 1962, and received commission on February 17, 1962.

Succession of seats[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Asbury Dickens, A Synoptical Index to the Laws and Treaties of the United States of America (1852), p. 391.
  2. ^ a b c d U.S. District Courts of Tennessee, Legislative history, Federal Judicial Center.
  3. ^ The Honorable Harry Phillips, "History of the Sixth Circuit".
  4. ^ Alfred Conkling, A Treatise on the Organization, Jurisdiction and Practice of the Courts of the United States (1842), p. 42.

External links[edit]