United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee
(E.D. Tenn.)

The four divisions of E.D. Tenn., with courthouse locations
Appeals to: Sixth Circuit
Established: April 29, 1802
Judges assigned: 5
Chief Judge: Thomas A. Varlan

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 all 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. The current US Attorney is William C. Killian.[1]

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.[2][3] 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,[3] 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.[4]

The repeal of this Act restored the District on March 8, 1802, 2 Stat. 132.[3] The District was divided into the Eastern and Western Districts on April 29, 1802.[2] 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.[2][3][5] 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 composition of the Court

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
21 Chief Judge Thomas A. Varlan Knoxville 1956 2003–present 2012–present G.W. Bush
22 District Judge J. Ronnie Greer Greeneville 1952 2003–present G.W. Bush
23 District Judge Harry Sandlin Mattice Jr. Chattanooga 1952 2005–present G.W. Bush
24 District Judge Pamela L. Reeves Knoxville 1954 2014–present Obama
25 District Judge Travis Randall McDonough Chattanooga 1972 2015–present Obama
18 Senior Judge Robert Leon Jordan Knoxville 1934 1988–2001 2001–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

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 McNairy, JohnJohn McNairy TN 1762–1837 1802–1833 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
4 Trigg, Connally FindlayConnally Findlay Trigg TN 1810–1880 1862–1880 Lincoln, Lincoln death
5 Key, David M.David M. Key TN 1824–1900 1880–1895 Hayes, Hayes retirement
6 Clark, Charles DickensCharles Dickens Clark TN 1847–1908 1895–1908 Cleveland, Cleveland death
7 Sanford, Edward TerryEdward Terry Sanford TN 1865–1930 1908–1923 Roosevelt, T.T. Roosevelt reappointment
8 Hicks, XenophonXenophon Hicks TN 1872–1952 1923–1928 Harding, Harding reappointment
9 Taylor, George CaldwellGeorge Caldwell Taylor TN 1885–1952 1928–1949 1948–1949 1949–1952 Coolidge, Coolidge death
10 Darr, Leslie RogersLeslie Rogers Darr TN 1886–1967 1939–1961 1949–1961 1961–1967 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt death
11 Taylor, Robert LoveRobert Love Taylor TN 1899–1987 1949–1984[6] 1961–1969 1984–1987 Truman, Truman death
12 Wilson, Frank WileyFrank Wiley Wilson TN 1917–1982 1961–1982 1969–1982 Kennedy, Kennedy death
13 Neese, Charles GelbertCharles Gelbert Neese TN 1916–1989 1961–1982[7] 1982–1989 Kennedy, Kennedy death
14 Milburn, Herbert TheodoreHerbert Theodore Milburn TN 1931–2016 1983–1984 1984–1984 Reagan, Reagan reappointment
15 Hull, Thomas GrayThomas Gray Hull TN 1926–2008 1983–2002 1984–1991 2002–2008 Reagan, Reagan death
16 Jarvis II, James HowardJames Howard Jarvis II TN 1937–2007 1984–2002 1991–1998 2002–2007 Reagan, Reagan death
17 Edgar, Robert AllanRobert Allan Edgar TN 1940–present 1985–2005 1998–2005 2005–2016 Reagan, Reagan retirement

Succession of seats

Seat 1
Seat reassigned from District of Tennessee on April 29, 1802 by 2 Stat. 165 (concurrent with Western District)
McNairy 1802–1833
Seat made concurrent with Middle District on June 18, 1839 by 5 Stat. 313
Brown 1833–1853
Humphreys 1853–1862
Trigg 1862–1880
Concurrency with Western District abolished on June 14, 1878 by 20 Stat. 132
Key 1880–1895
Clark 1895–1908
Sanford 1908–1923
Hicks 1923–1928
Concurrency with Middle District abolished on May 23, 1928 pursuant to 42 Stat. 837
G. Taylor 1928–1949
R. Taylor 1950–1984
Jordan 1988–2001
Varlan 2003–present

Seat 2
Seat established on May 31, 1938 by 52 Stat. 584 (temporary, concurrent with Middle District)
Concurrency with Middle District abolished and seat made permanent on November 27, 1940 by 54 Stat. 1216
Darr 1939–1961
Wilson 1961–1982
Hull 1983–2002
Greer 2003–present

Seat 3
Seat established on May 19, 1961 by 75 Stat. 80
Neese 1962–1982
Milburn 1983–1984
Edgar 1985–2005
Mattice, Jr. 2005–present

Seat 4
Seat established on July 10, 1984 by 98 Stat. 333
Jarvis II 1984–2002
Phillips 2002–2013
Reeves 2014–present

Seat 5
Seat established on December 1, 1990 by 104 Stat. 5089
Collier 1995–2014
McDonough 2015–present

See also


  1. "Office of the United States Attorneys". Executive Office for United States Attorneys. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Asbury Dickens, A Synoptical Index to the Laws and Treaties of the United States of America (1852), p. 391.
  3. 1 2 3 4 U.S. District Courts of Tennessee, Legislative history, Federal Judicial Center.
  4. The Honorable Harry Phillips, "History of the Sixth Circuit".
  5. Alfred Conkling, A Treatise on the Organization, Jurisdiction and Practice of the Courts of the United States (1842), p. 42.
  6. 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.
  7. 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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