Visiting the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Missouri strives to serve justice and make the courts accessible to all, both by providing access to information in the Court and by opening the building and library to visitors of all ages and physical abilities.
The Supreme Court was created in 1820, the year before Missouri officially became a state. Since the state's third constitution was adopted in 1875, the Supreme Court has been located in Jefferson City, the state's capital. In 1877, a building for the Supreme Court was constructed at a cost of $17,000 just east of the Capitol, where the state's department of transportation now is located.
In 1905, using a portion of the proceeds from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, the general assembly appropriated $400,000 to build the present Supreme Court Building. This three-story, red-brick building, which opened in October 1907, features French Renaissance architecture, stone pillars at each wing of the front façade, stone trim and a slate roof. Prominent in its lobby is a massive marble staircase.
The building houses the offices of the Supreme Court clerk and the clerk’s staff, two courtrooms, the two-story high Supreme Court Library, and, by statute, the office of the state attorney general.
When the building was designed, Supreme Court judges came from their hometowns around the state to Jefferson City three months out of the year to hear and decide cases. For that reason, their chambers included small apartment areas off each judge’s office. Today the judges hear cases nine or 10 months each year, and their chambers have been remodeled to accommodate their staff of two law clerks and an administrative assistant.
Free half-hour tours of this historic building are available for the public and school or business groups at varying times during most business days. Particularly during the fall and spring, tour times fill quickly. Please call ahead or click the link in this paragraph to be sure that the time you want to tour is available.
Observing Oral Arguments
The Supreme Court also welcomes visitors to observe oral arguments, which normally are held from September through May and are scheduled for several days during each of those months. The arguments in most cases last about 30 minutes, although some cases – including death penalty cases – are given additional time for argument. For most argument sessions, four cases are scheduled. The Court prefers that visitors be seated in the courtroom before oral arguments begin.
The courtroom in which oral arguments are held can accommodate up to 55 visitors. With at least 24 hours advance notice, additional seating can be provided in an auxiliary courtroom connected to the main courtroom via closed circuit television. To schedule a group to observe oral arguments, please contact the Supreme Court communications counsel, Beth Riggert, by calling (573) 751-4144 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Court welcomes individuals with disabilities or other special needs to visit the building and observe oral arguments and will assist in making special accommodations for such visitors.