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United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
(M.D. Tenn.)
Seal of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
MDTenn map.PNG
Appeals to Sixth Circuit
Established June 18, 1839
Judges assigned 4
Chief judge Todd J. Campbell
Official site

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 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).



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][4][2] 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.


  • As of March 1, 2007, a vacancy exists in the Middle District of Tennessee due to Judge Robert L. Echols' decision to assume senior status. No replacement nomination is pending at this time.
  • Four Magistrate Judges serve in the District: Juliet Griffin; Joe B. Brown; E. Clifton Knowles; and John S. Bryant.
Judge Appointed by Began active
Ended active
Ended senior
End reason
Morgan Welles Brown Andrew Jackson 01839-06-18 June 18, 1839 01853-03-07 March 7, 1853 death
Todd J. Campbell Bill Clinton 01995-12-26 December 26, 1995 Incumbent
Charles Dickens Clark Grover Cleveland 01895-01-21 January 21, 1895 01908-03-15 March 15, 1908 death
Leslie Rogers Darr Franklin D. Roosevelt 01939-06-02 June 2, 1939 01940-11-27 November 27, 1940 assignment to another court
Elmer David Davies Franklin D. Roosevelt 01939-07-12 July 12, 1939 01957-01-07 January 7, 1957 death
Robert L. Echols George H. W. Bush 01992-03-18 March 18, 1992 02007-03-01 March 1, 2007 Incumbent
John J. Gore Warren G. Harding 01923-03-02 March 2, 1923 01939-02-21 February 21, 1939 death
Frank Gray, Jr. John F. Kennedy 01961-11-20 November 20, 1961[5] 01977-07-15 July 15, 1977 01978-09-06 September 6, 1978 death
William Joseph Haynes, Jr. Bill Clinton 01999-11-15 November 15, 1999 Incumbent
Xenophon Hicks Warren G. Harding 01923-03-02 March 2, 1923 01928-05-23 May 23, 1928 reappointment
Thomas Aquinas Higgins Ronald Reagan 01984-10-04 October 4, 1984 01999-02-28 February 28, 1999 Incumbent
West Hughes Humphreys Franklin Pierce 01853-03-26 March 26, 1853 01862-06-26 June 26, 1862 impeachment and conviction
David M. Key Rutherford B. Hayes 01880-05-27 May 27, 1880 01895-01-21 January 21, 1895 retirement
William Ernest Miller Dwight D. Eisenhower 01955-03-16 March 16, 1955 01970-07-13 July 13, 1970 reappointment
Leland Clure Morton Richard Nixon 01970-10-14 October 14, 1970 01984-07-31 July 31, 1984 01998-04-11 April 11, 1998 death
John Trice Nixon Jimmy Carter 01980-05-12 May 12, 1980 01998-08-15 August 15, 1998 Incumbent
Edward Terry Sanford Theodore Roosevelt 01908-05-18 May 18, 1908 01923-02-05 February 5, 1923 reappointment
Aleta Arthur Trauger Bill Clinton 01998-10-22 October 22, 1998 Incumbent
Connally Findlay Trigg Abraham Lincoln 01862-07-17 July 17, 1862 01880-04-25 April 25, 1880 death
Thomas Anderton Wiseman Jr. Jimmy Carter 01978-08-11 August 11, 1978 01995-11-03 November 3, 1995 Incumbent


  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.
  5. ^ 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.

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