United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee
(E.D. Tenn.)
The four divisions of the Eastern District of Tennessee, with courthouse locations
More locations
Appeals toSixth Circuit
EstablishedApril 29, 1802
Chief JudgeTravis Randall McDonough
Officers of the court
U.S. AttorneyFrancis M. Hamilton III
U.S. MarshalDavid G. Jolley

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee (in case citations, E.D. Tenn.) is the federal court in the Sixth Circuit whose jurisdiction covers most of East Tennessee and a portion of Middle Tennessee. The court has jurisdiction over 41 counties with 4 divisions. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, it maintains branch facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Greeneville, Tennessee; and Winchester, Tennessee.

The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. Since January 5, 2021, the United States attorney has been Francis M. Hamilton III, first as interim United States attorney appointed by United States Attorney General Merrick Garland,[1] until appointed full United States attorney, on April 25, 2022, by the District Court itself, while still waiting for a Presidential appointee to be confirmed by the US Senate.[2]

The court was established by the Judiciary Act of 1801 ("Midnight Judges" Act) wherein Congress created a new Sixth Circuit with two districts in Tennessee. Since 1797, the state had been organized by Congress into one judicial district with one judge, John McNairy.

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.[3][4] 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,[4] 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.[5]

The repeal of this Act restored the District on March 8, 1802, 2 Stat. 132.[4] The District was divided into the Eastern and Western Districts on April 29, 1802.[3] 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.[3][4][6] 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 Eastern District of Tennessee was Robert Love Taylor, appointed by Harry S. Truman.

Current judges

As of February 27, 2024:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
25 Chief Judge Travis R. McDonough Chattanooga 1972 2015–present 2020–present Obama
21 District Judge Thomas A. Varlan Knoxville 1956 2003–present 2012–2019 G.W. Bush
26 District Judge Clifton L. Corker Greeneville 1967 2019–present Trump
27 District Judge Charles E. Atchley Jr. Chattanooga 1966 2020–present Trump
28 District Judge Katherine A. Crytzer Knoxville 1984 2020–present Trump
17 Senior Judge Robert Allan Edgar inactive 1940 1985–2005 1998–2005 2005–present Reagan
19 Senior Judge Curtis Lynn Collier Chattanooga 1949 1995–2014 2005–2012 2014–present Clinton
20 Senior Judge Thomas W. Phillips Knoxville 1943 2002–2013 2013–present G.W. Bush
22 Senior Judge J. Ronnie Greer Greeneville 1952 2003–2018 2018–present G.W. Bush

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 John McNairy TN 1762–1837 1802–1833[Note 1][Note 2] Washington/Operation of law resignation
2 Morgan Welles Brown TN 1800–1853 1834–1853[Note 2][Note 3] Jackson death
3 West Hughes Humphreys TN 1806–1882 1853–1862[Note 4] Pierce impeachment and conviction
4 Connally Findlay Trigg TN 1810–1880 1862–1880[Note 5][Note 6] Lincoln death
5 David M. Key TN 1824–1900 1880–1895[Note 5] Hayes retirement
6 Charles Dickens Clark TN 1847–1908 1895–1908[Note 5] Cleveland death
7 Edward Terry Sanford TN 1865–1930 1908–1923[Note 5] T. Roosevelt elevation to Supreme Court
8 Xenophon Hicks TN 1872–1952 1923–1928[Note 5] Harding elevation to 6th Cir.
9 George Caldwell Taylor TN 1885–1952 1928–1949 1948–1949 1949–1952 Coolidge death
10 Leslie Rogers Darr TN 1886–1967 1939–1961[Note 7] 1949–1961 1961–1967 F. Roosevelt death
11 Robert Love Taylor TN 1899–1987 1949–1984[Note 8] 1961–1969 1984–1987 Truman death
12 Frank Wiley Wilson TN 1917–1982 1961–1982 1969–1982 Kennedy death
13 Charles Gelbert Neese TN 1916–1989 1961–1982[Note 9] 1982–1989 Kennedy death
14 Herbert Theodore Milburn TN 1931–2016 1983–1984 1984 Reagan elevation to 6th Cir.
15 Thomas Gray Hull TN 1926–2008 1983–2002 1984–1991 2002–2008 Reagan death
16 James Howard Jarvis II TN 1937–2007 1984–2002 1991–1998 2002–2007 Reagan death
18 Robert Leon Jordan TN 1934–2024 1988–2001 2001–2024 Reagan death
23 Harry Sandlin Mattice Jr. TN 1954–present 2005–2020 2020–2021 G.W. Bush retirement
24 Pamela L. Reeves TN 1954–2020 2014–2020 2019–2020 Obama death
  1. ^ Reassigned from the District of Tennessee.
  2. ^ a b Jointly appointed to the Eastern and Western Districts of Tennessee
  3. ^ From 1839 to 1853, Judge Brown was jointly appointed to the Middle District of Tennessee.
  4. ^ Jointly appointed to the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Tennessee
  5. ^ a b c d e Jointly appointed to the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee
  6. ^ From 1862 to 1878, Judge Trigg was jointly appointed to the Western District of Tennessee.
  7. ^ From 1939 to 1940, Judge Darr was jointly appointed to the Middle District of Tennessee.
  8. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 5, 1950, confirmed by the United States Senate on March 8, 1950, and received commission on March 9, 1950
  9. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 15, 1962, confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 1962, and received commission on February 17, 1962

Chief judges

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their district court. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the district court judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge.

A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years, or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire, on what has since 1958 been known as senior status, or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Succession of seats

See also


  1. ^ "Interim United States Attorney Appointed For The Eastern District Of Tennessee" (Press release). Knoxville, Tennessee: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. January 5, 2021. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  2. ^ "Meet the U.S. Attorney" (Press release). Knoxville, Tennessee: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. April 25, 2022. Retrieved September 17, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Asbury Dickens, A Synoptical Index to the Laws and Treaties of the United States of America (1852), p. 391.
  4. ^ a b c d U.S. District Courts of Tennessee, Legislative history, Federal Judicial Center.
  5. ^ The Honorable Harry Phillips, "History of the Sixth Circuit Archived 2007-01-11 at the Wayback Machine".
  6. ^ Alfred Conkling, A Treatise on the Organization, Jurisdiction and Practice of the Courts of the United States (1842), p. 42.

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