History of Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District

The first intermediate Court of Appeals in Missouri was established when the Constitution of 1820 provided that the Court of Chancery would have not only original but also appellate jurisdiction in all matters of equity and general superintending control over probate matters. Appeal would then lie to the Supreme Court. Sections 10 and 11, Art. V, Constitution of 1820.

The Constitution of 1865 provided that the state be divided into not less than five appellate districts each of which would embrace at least three judicial circuits. Each district court was composed of the judges of the Circuit Courts within that district and a majority of them constituted a quorum.  The district courts had original jurisdiction with the Supreme Court and appellate jurisdiction from the final judgments of the Circuit Courts and all other inferior courts of record within the district except Probate and County Courts. Appeal or writ of error could then be taken from that court to the Supreme Court as provided by law. Section 12, Art. VI, Constitution of 1865.

The Constitution of 1875 created the St. Louis Court of Appeals. The 1875 Constitution provided a very limited district comprised of the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren. Currently, the territorial jurisdiction of the Eastern District comprises the city of St. Louis and the 25 counties of Monroe, Shelby, Knox, Scotland, Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike, Lincoln, Montgomery, Warren, St. Charles, St. Louis, Jefferson, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Cape Girardeau, Madison, St. Francois, Washington, Franklin, Audrain, Gasconade, and Osage.

In 1884, a constitutional amendment was adopted whereby (1) the jurisdiction of the St. Louis Court of Appeals was extended to additional counties; and (2) the Kansas City Court of Appeals was established with the same jurisdiction in all counties other than those named to be within the jurisdiction of the St. Louis Court.  The legislature was also authorized to create one additional Court of Appeals and to change the boundaries of the appellate districts. Thereafter, in 1909, the Springfield Court of Appeals was established and the territorial jurisdiction of the other courts of appeals was rearranged. These same regional courts are now known as the Eastern District, Western District and Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals. 

The Missouri Court of Appeals, as it exists today, was created by a Constitutional amendment adopted in 1970, effective in 1972, and then by complete revision which became effective January 2, 1979. Under these amendments, the personnel and records of the existing courts were incorporated into one Court of Appeals to be known as the Missouri Court of Appeals but each district must operate separately as it had in the past under the superintending control of the Missouri Supreme Court, yet limited to the territorial jurisdiction established by law. Under the 1970 amendments, additional districts of the Court and judgeships could be established by legislative enactment.  Art. V, Constitution of 1945, as amended.

When the St. Louis Court of Appeals was created in 1875, the Missouri Supreme Court vacated its chambers and courtroom in the Old Courthouse in the City of St. Louis. In January of 1876, when the St. Louis Court went into session, it took over the old Supreme Court chambers in the Old Courthouse.  The St. Louis Court of Appeals resided in the Old Courthouse until 1908. In early 1908, the St. Louis Court of Appeals moved to the Pierce Building at 112 N. 4th Street, caddy-corner from the Old Courthouse (now the home of the Adams Mark hotel in 2001). The Court resided there on the 17th floor.  The Court had its offices in the Pierce Building until it moved to the brand new Civil Courts Building, which was dedicated on June 21, 1930. From June of 1930 until 1981, the Eastern District had its offices in the Civil Courts Building at 12th and Market in St. Louis. The Court occupied the 12th floor and the 12th mezzanine. On June 23, 1981, the Court moved to the newly renovated annex of the Wainwright Building at 111 North 7th Street. On January 30, 2006, the Eastern District moved its offices to the Old Post Office at 815 Olive Street. From 1976 to 1981 and again from 1987 to 2006, the Court also had a branch office in Clayton.

From its creation in 1875 until 1972, the Eastern District consisted of three judges. From 1919 until 1970, the judges were assisted in their work by Commissioners, who made the same salary as judges and acted as judges, but had no vote. After the constitutional amendments of 1970, the Commissioner positions were eliminated. As Commissioners retired and resigned, they were replaced by judges. In early 1972 when the amendments went into effect, the Court increased to five judges and by the end of 1972, it had seven judges. The Court added an eighth judge in 1973 and increased to ten judges in 1974. The Court remained at ten judges until 1978, when the legislature authorized twelve judges for the Eastern District. § 477.160, RSMo 1978.  In 1982, with the retirement of the last remaining Supreme Court commissioners, the total judges at the Eastern District increased to fourteen, the same amount it has today in 2006. A Chief Judge is selected for a term of one year.

For a more detailed account prepared for this Court's 125th Anniversary in 2001, click on this link:

Celebrating 125 Years of Justice , A History of The Missouri Court of Appeals - Eastern District 1876-2001.pdf