United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
(M.D. Tenn.)
LocationFred D Thompson Federal Building & Courthouse
More locations
Appeals toSixth Circuit
EstablishedJune 18, 1839
Chief JudgeWilliam L. Campbell Jr.
Officers of the court
U.S. AttorneyHenry C. Leventis
U.S. MarshalDenny Wade King

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).

As of January 11, 2023 the United States attorney is Henry C. Leventis.

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 judges

As of April 15, 2024:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
23 Chief Judge William L. Campbell Jr. Nashville 1969 2018–present 2024–present Trump
19 District Judge Aleta Arthur Trauger Nashville 1945 1998–present Clinton
22 District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. Nashville 1956 2016–present 2017–2024 Obama
24 District Judge Eli J. Richardson Nashville 1967 2018–present Trump

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Morgan Welles Brown TN 1800–1853 1839–1853[Note 1] Jackson/Operation of law death
2 West Hughes Humphreys TN 1806–1882 1853–1862[Note 1] Pierce impeachment and conviction
3 Connally Findlay Trigg TN 1810–1880 1862–1880[Note 2][Note 3] Lincoln death
4 David M. Key TN 1824–1900 1880–1895[Note 2] Hayes retirement
5 Charles Dickens Clark TN 1847–1908 1895–1908[Note 2] Cleveland death
6 Edward Terry Sanford TN 1865–1930 1908–1923[Note 2] T. Roosevelt elevation to Supreme Court
7 John J. Gore TN 1878–1939 1923–1939 Harding death
8 Xenophon Hicks TN 1872–1952 1923–1928[Note 2] Harding elevation to 6th Cir.
9 Leslie Rogers Darr TN 1886–1967 1939–1940[Note 2] F. Roosevelt seat abolished
10 Elmer David Davies TN 1899–1957 1939–1957 1954–1957 F. Roosevelt death
11 William Ernest Miller TN 1908–1976 1955–1970 1961–1970 Eisenhower elevation to 6th Cir.
12 Frank Gray, Jr. TN 1908–1978 1961–1977[Note 4] 1970–1977 1977–1978 Kennedy death
13 Leland Clure Morton TN 1916–1998 1970–1984 1977–1984 1984–1998 Nixon death
14 Thomas Anderton Wiseman Jr. TN 1930–2020 1978–1995 1984–1991 1995–2011 Carter retirement
15 John Trice Nixon TN 1933–2019 1980–1998 1991–1998 1998–2019 Carter death
16 Thomas Aquinas Higgins TN 1932–2018 1984–1999 1999–2018 Reagan death
17 Robert L. Echols TN 1941–present 1992–2007 1998–2005 2007–2010 G.H.W. Bush retirement
18 Todd J. Campbell TN 1956–2021 1995–2016 2005–2012 2016–2021 Clinton death
20 William Joseph Haynes Jr. TN 1949–present 1999–2014 2012–2014 2014–2017 Clinton retirement
21 Kevin H. Sharp TN 1963–present 2011–2017 2014–2017 Obama resignation
  1. ^ a b Jointly appointed to the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Tennessee
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jointly appointed to the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee
  3. ^ From 1862 to 1878, Judge Trigg was jointly appointed to the Western District of Tennessee.
  4. ^ 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.

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. ^ 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 Archived January 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine".
  4. ^ Alfred Conkling, A Treatise on the Organization, Jurisdiction and Practice of the Courts of the United States (1842), p. 42.