If walls could talk, then those of the U.S. District Court of Eastern Missouri would have a lot to say.
Historian Burton Boxerman worked with a group of prominent attorneys and district court judges to capture some of the court’s tales in “And Justice for All: A History of the Federal District Court of Eastern Missouri.”
The court got its start in 1822, less than a year after Missouri became a state. Many of the court’s early cases were related to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
“Maritime and admiralty are questions concerning waterways. St. Louis, being located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi River, was a very, very important river,” Boxerman told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday. “An admiralty case was involving ships colliding. It involved pay of the seamen. It involved claims against the shipping companies. If it dealt with the waterways, it was a federal decision and naturally could go to a federal court.”
There are not nearly as many maritime or admiralty cases today. The court has evolved to handle many different types of cases.
A St. Louis school desegregation case was one of the court’s longest-running cases, Boxerman said. Four judges heard the case.
“Courts asked the plaintiffs to write a desegregation order that they wanted,” he said. “They submitted it to the courts, then it was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. They handed it back to the district court. They wrote another (order). These judges got very, very frustrated hearing these cases. Then more people became plaintiffs, it involved more school districts. It was a very complicated case.”
In addition to stories about some of the court's biggest cases, “And Justice for All” also includes information on the court’s origins, biographies on the court’s judges and documents from the Dred Scott trial.
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.