Frequently Asked Questions


1.  Where are the Clerk's Offices located?

The Clerk maintains four staffed offices. They are in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Greeneville, and Winchester.

All offices are open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except for legal holidays (see below).

Knoxville, Chattanooga and Greeneville are in the Eastern time zone. Winchester is in the Central time zone. The addresses of the Eastern District of Tennessee Clerk's Offices can be found on our LOCATIONS page.


2.  Which days will the Clerk's Office be closed for business?

The Clerk's Office will not be open for business on Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.  Legal holidays are listed on our GENERAL INFORMATION page.


3.  How are judges assigned to a case?

All civil and criminal actions are assigned by a random selection process in order to ensure that the identity of the judge is not disclosed before the case is officially filed. Cases are assigned to district judges at random in accordance with administrative orders issued by the court. The clerk will place the name of the assigned district judge on the complaint when it is filed. See Local Rule 3.2.


4.  How can I find out if a pleading or an order has been filed?

You can find this information by:

  • Using Web PACER
  • Visiting the Clerk's Office and using the PC at the public counter to conduct a search of our ECF system
  • Contacting the Clerk's Office by telephone and asking for this information. The telephone numbers for the Clerk's Offices are as follows:
    • Chattanooga (423) 752-5200
    • Greeneville (423) 639-3105
    • Knoxville (865) 545-4228
    • Winchester (931) 967-1444


5.  What are your general filing requirements?

  1. Use 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Refer to Local Rule 5.1

  2. In the event a case is removed from state court, all documents originally prepared on 8 1/2 x 14 paper must be reduced to 8 1/2 x 11.

  3. The heading of the complaint and each document/pleading filed thereafter shall be:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE

AT [CHATTANOOGA, GREENEVILLE, KNOXVILLE or WINCHESTER]

  1. A space for the case number should be provided on the complaint. The case number and name of the district judge/magistrate judge should be reflected on each pleading filed thereafter.

  2. An original is required for every pleading. No additional copies are required unless a courtesy copy for the judge has been requested by the court.

  3. In consolidated cases, an original is required for only the lead case. If requesting to consolidate cases, an original must be filed in each action until an order of consolidation is entered designating a lead case.



6.  What is needed to file a civil complaint?

  • Use 8.5 x 11 paper. Refer to Local Rule 5.1

  • The heading of the complaint or removal notice shall be UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT / EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE / AT [CHATTANOOGA, GREENEVILLE, KNOXVILLE or WINCHESTER] and provide a space entitled "Civil Action No. ." The caption shall contain the full name(s) of all parties; plaintiffs and defendants may be numbered for easier distinction.

  • The complaint shall be clear and concise and should include the residence or domicile of the parties (including corporate parties). The basis of jurisdiction shall be specified; (if applicable) the complaint shall set out the basis for diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000.

  • Pay the filing fee (payable to the U. S. District Court Clerk) or application to proceed in forma pauperis must accompany the complaint or removal notice. 

  • A completed civil cover sheet (Form JS 44) shall accompany the complaint or removal notice. Local Rule 3.1

  • A copy of the summons (AO 440) and complaint must be served upon each defendant unless waived by the defendant. [Fed.R.Cv.P. 4] An original summons shall be completed for each defendant and presented to the clerk to be signed and sealed (copies will be made by the clerk). Forms for waiver of service are also available.

  • A summons and complaint may be served by any person who is not a party and who is not less than 18 years of age or, upon direction of the court, at plaintiff's request, by a United States marshal/deputy marshal or an officer or a person specially appointed by the court for that purpose. [Fed.R.Cv.P. 4]

  • The plaintiff is responsible for serving the defendants within 120 days after filing the complaint and for filing proof of service. [Fed.R.Cv.P. 4].

  • When the defendant has been served, the process server shall complete the return (the back of the original summons), stating the name of the person served, date and place of service, and sign in the proper place. If service is by mail, the signed postal receipt shall be attached. The return (proof of service) shall be filed with the clerk.

  • If service is to be made by the Tennessee Secretary of State or Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance, for each defendant to be served, the original and one copy of the summons with the court seal, two stamped-filed copies of the complaint, a check in the amount of $15.00 payable to the Commissioner of Insurance, and instructions or information required by that office shall be transmitted to the appropriate address by the plaintiff. The Secretary of State files an affidavit with the clerk stating that service of process has/has not been executed; the Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance may send the return to plaintiff's counsel to be filed with the  court. Questions about this procedure may be directed to the Secretary of State at 615-741-1799 or the Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance at 615-741-2241.

  • Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains special requirements for service of defendants who are (a) United States government entities, (b) foreign, state, or local governments, (d) minor/incompetent, (d) outside the territorial United States, and others.  These requirements must be followed.



7.  When and how can an amended complaint be filed?

An amended complaint may be filed once as a matter of course when no answer is on file; otherwise, leave of court, or written consent of the adverse party must be obtained [Fed.R.Cv.P. 15(a)].

A party who moves to amend a pleading must attach a copy of the proposed amended pleading to the motion. Any amendment to a pleading, whether filed as a matter of course or upon motion to amend must, except by leave of court, reproduce the entire pleading as amended, and may not incorporate any prior pleading by reference.Local Rule 15.1.



8.  I have a judgment in another district and want to register the judgment in your court. What do I do?

You must obtain a certified copy of the judgment from the court where the judgment was originally entered. You must also obtain a document entitled Certification of Judgment for Registration in Another District (AO 451) from the court where the judgment was entered. Both these documents must then be filed in the appropriate division of the Eastern District of Tennessee along with the miscellaneous filing fee of $46.00.


9.  What is needed to file a petition for removal?

A defendant desiring to remove a civil action from a state court to the U.S. District Court shall file with the clerk's office the following documents:

  1. An original civil Cover Sheet (JS-44 Form) filled out with the county of the first listed plaintiff, or of the first listed defendant if the U.S. is the plaintiff;

  2. Petition for Removal

Note: the petition must bear the U.S. District Court heading and the full style of the original state court complaint (not "et al."). The style is not reversed by a removal action: it remains consistent with the style of the state court action. A copy of the notice to state court and to opposing counsel must also be filed with U.S. District Court also.

  1. Copies of all state court process, pleadings, and any orders served upon the defendant.

Note: the attorney is responsible for all service made regarding the petition for removal and for notification of the state court of the removal action.



10.  Who can serve a summons?

Service of a summons can be made by [Fed.R.Cv.P. 4]:

  • The U.S. Marshal (1) in cases brought on behalf of the United States; (2) when ordered by the Court in forma pauperis actions; (3) in actions brought on behalf of seamen (28 U.S.C. 1916); and (4) in any other action in which the court so directs;

  • Any person who is not a party and who is over 18 years of age [Fed.R.Cv.P.4(c)]

  • In cases where the party to be served resides in a foreign country, the summons can be served by the Clerk of the Court pursuant to FRCP 4(f).



11.  What length of time do I have within which to serve my complaint on the defendant(s)?

The plaintiff has 120 days from the filing date of the complaint in which to serve the defendant [see Fed.R.Cv.P 4(j)].


12.  What are the witness fees for a court hearing, trial or deposition?

The witness fee is $40 per day and the current mileage rate can be found on our FEES AND RATES page.


13.  What goes in a bill of costs and what are the procedures?

See Guidelines On Preparing Bills of Costs set forth following Local Rule 54.1. Bills of Costs must be filed in accordance with [Fed.R.Cv.P. 54(d)(1)]. Bills of Costs are filed with the clerk's office.


14.  How do I go about retrieving a record/file from the Federal Records Center?

You may contact the Federal Records Center directly by calling 404-763-7474 if you have the location and access information for the file. If you do not have the location and accession information for the file you wish to view, then you must contact the appropriate divisional office for that information. The fee for retrieving a file from the Federal Records Center is $64.00.


15.  Can the Clerk's Office tell me how I should proceed with my case?

Clerk's Office employees cannot give "legal advice" or "practice law" since they are prohibited under Title 28 U.S.C. 955 and Local Rule 77.1. Therefore, when asked, Clerk's Office employees cannot:

  • Explain the meaning of a specific rule
  • Make an interpretation of case law (i.e., how a party is affected by events in a case or how a party should proceed);
  • Explain the result of taking or not taking an action in a situation;
  • Answer whether jurisdiction is proper in a case (e.g., Is this a federal question or diversity case?)
  • Answer whether the complaint properly presents a claim (e.g., Did I say the right thing and is it enough information?)
  • Describe what the best procedures are to accomplish a particular objective (e.g., How do I subpoena a witness in a case?);
  • Answer whether the filing of a complaint is timely
Clerk's Office employees can provide procedural information such as:
  • Giving instructions on how to execute a task (i.e., number of copies, scheduling a hearing, use of forms, etc.)
  • Giving advice on whether someone is complying with our court's policy


16.  Where can I find a map with boundaries of the federal circuits or links to other court sites?

The Federal Judicial Center Home Page at http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html


17.  I am not admitted to practice in the Eastern District of Tennessee but I need to make an appearance in a case. What are the requirements to appear?

See Local Rule 83.5(b)(1) and (2). A form motion can be found here.


18.  Are there any restrictions on cellular phones, pagers or laptop computers in the courthouses?

Yes. As set forth in Local Rule 83.1, the Court's general policy is that cell phones, pagers, and cameras are not permitted in courtrooms. However, an attorney using a personal digital assistant or "combination device" which combines calendaring with a cellular telephone, wireless Internet capability or camera, may bring such combination device into a courtroom on condition that the attorney enters into an agreement regarding the use of such combination device. Notwithstanding any provision of this rule, any District or Magistrate Judge retains the discretion to revoke for any reason an attorney's privilege to possess a combination device in a courtroom.