United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee

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United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee
(W.D. Tenn.)
WDTenn map.PNG
Appeals to Sixth Circuit
Established April 29, 1802
Judges assigned 5
Chief Judge Stanley Thomas Anderson

The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (in case citations, W.D. Tenn.) is the Federal district court covering the western part of the state of Tennessee. Appeals from the Western District of Tennessee are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit).


The jurisdiction of the Western District of Tennessee comprises the following counties: Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Perry, Shelby, Tipton, and Weakley.

The court's jurisdiction includes the entirety of West Tennessee, plus Perry County in Middle Tennessee. This area includes the cities of Jackson and Memphis.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current Acting United States Attorney is Lawrence J. Laurenzi.


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. President Rutherford B. Hayes then appointed Eli Shelby Hammond as the first judge for only the Eastern District of Tennessee.

There are now five permanent judgeships and four magistrate judgeships for the Western District of Tennessee.

Current Judges[edit]

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
22 Chief Judge Stanley Thomas Anderson Memphis 1953 2008–present 2017–present G. W. Bush
23 District Judge John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr. Memphis 1951 2012–present Obama
24 District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman Memphis 1963 2014–present Obama
25 District Judge vacant
26 District Judge vacant
16 Senior Judge James Dale Todd Jackson, Tennessee 1943 1985–2008 2001–2007 2008–present Reagan
18 Senior Judge Jon Phipps McCalla Memphis 1947 1992–2013 2008–2013 2013–present G. H. W. Bush
20 Senior Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr. Memphis 1948 2002–2015 2015–present G. W. Bush
21 Senior Judge J. Daniel Breen Jackson, Tennessee 1950 2003–2017 2013–2017 2017–present G. W. Bush

Vacancies and pending nominations[edit]

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
2 Samuel H. Mays, Jr. Senior Status July 1, 2015
4 J. Daniel Breen Senior Status March 18, 2017

Former Judges[edit]

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 McNairy, JohnJohn McNairy TN 1762–1837 1802–1833[Note 1] Washington, Washington resignation
2 Brown, Morgan WellesMorgan Welles Brown TN 1800–1853 1834–1853 Jackson, Jackson death
3 Humphreys, West HughesWest Hughes Humphreys TN 1806–1882 1853–1862 Pierce, Pierce removal[Note 2]
4 Trigg, Connally FindlayConnally Findlay Trigg TN 1810–1880 1862–1878 Lincoln, Lincoln reassignment
5 Hammond, Eli ShelbyEli Shelby Hammond TN 1838–1904 1878–1904 Hayes, Hayes death
6 McCall, John E.John E. McCall TN 1859–1920 1905–1920 Roosevelt, T.T. Roosevelt death
7 Ross, John WilliamJohn William Ross TN 1878–1925 1921–1925 Harding, Harding death
8 Anderson, Harry BennettHarry Bennett Anderson TN 1879–1935 1925–1935[Note 3] Coolidge, Coolidge death
9 Martin, Sr., John DonelsonJohn Donelson Martin, Sr. TN 1883–1962 1935–1940 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt reappointment
10 Boyd, Marion SpeedMarion Speed Boyd TN 1900–1988 1940–1966 1961–1966 1966–1988 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt death
11 Brown, BaileyBailey Brown TN 1917–2004 1961–1979 1966–1979 Kennedy, Kennedy reappointment
12 McRae Jr., Robert MalcolmRobert Malcolm McRae Jr. TN 1921–2004 1966–1986 1979–1986 1986–2004 Johnson, L.L. Johnson death
13 Wellford, Harry W.Harry W. Wellford TN 1924–present 1970–1982 Nixon, Nixon reappointment
14 Horton, OdellOdell Horton TN 1929–2006 1980–1995 1987–1994 1995–2006 Carter, Carter death
15 Gibbons, Julia SmithJulia Smith Gibbons TN 1950–present 1983–2002 1994–2000 Reagan, Reagan reappointment
17 Turner, JeromeJerome Turner TN 1942–2000 1987–2000 Reagan, Reagan death
19 Donald, Bernice B.Bernice B. Donald TN 1951–present 1995–2011 Clinton, Clinton reappointment
  1. ^ Reassigned from District of Tennessee
  2. ^ Impeached and convicted.
  3. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 8, 1925, confirmed by the United States Senate on January 29, 1926, and received commission on January 29, 1926.

Succession of seats[edit]


The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee is based out of two courthouses, the Clifford Davis Federal Building on 167 North Main Street in downtown Memphis and the Ed Jones Federal Building in Jackson, Tennessee.

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]