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Judicial Branch Building and Courthouse Tours

picture of the exterior of the Iowa Judicial Branch BuildingVisit the Iowa Judicial Branch Building on the state capitol complex, which is the home of the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and state court administration. 

Inside the five-story limestone building, you  will find historic allegorical murals dating back to the 1880s, an inlaid marble floor, a soaring coffered dome, and two stately courtrooms.

The building, which sits on a bluff overlooking downtown Des Moines, is located at 1111 East Court Avenue, two blocks south of the Capitol.  The building is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on state holidays.  Map (PDF).

Visitors may use an easy to follow self-guided tour (PDF) that contains key information about the building and the murals.  

Group Tours

Guided tours of the public areas of the building are available for groups of 20 or more.  Contact the supreme court offices at (515) 348-4963 at least two weeks in advance to schedule a tour.

Video Tour

Discover some of the special features in the Iowa Judicial Branch Building and the interesting stories behind them. This 11-minute video is narrated by retired KCCI-TV news anchor Kevin Cooney and was produced in 2016 by J. Alex Cooney with video production provided by his company, JAC Photoworks. The Cooneys donated their time and expertise for the production of the video.

Historic Murals

You may download a PowerPoint slide show about the history and restoration of the murals (PPT).

Courthouse Visits

Do you want to learn more about the courts? Please visit a courthouse and watch your courts at work. 

There is a courthouse in every county. County courthouses are used for trial court proceedings. As a general rule most trials and hearings are open to the public. Some types of hearings are confidential; when in doubt check with a court official about attending a hearing. In addition, in many counties court is in session only one day every week or two weeks.

When attending court proceedings, please show respect for others and for the work of the court. Please be quiet, turn off cell phones and electronic devices, and refrain from behavior that might disrupt the proceedings or distract court participants. Recording proceedings and taking photographs are prohibited.

Student Tours of County Courthouses in Iowa

Many of the county courthouses in Iowa are old, beautiful and rich in history and tradition. Students would learn a great deal about the courthouse and the local court system by visiting and touring the county courthouse. In most counties a clerk’s office staff member – or other government employee located in the courthouse – can help arrange a courthouse tour for a school class. (The ability to schedule a courthouse tour will depend on the availability of staff and other scheduled events at the courthouse.) In most counties students will learn about the: 

  • History of the courthouse 
  • Duties of the clerk of district court 
  • Jury duty and how juries work 
  • Duties of the various types of judges (magistrates, district associate judges, associate juvenile judges, and district judges) 
  • Duties of other government offices located in the courthouse 

How to Arrange a Tour of Your County’s Courthouse 

Please call the clerk of district court in your county – located in your county courthouse. Depending on the county, clerk’s office staff will help make the necessary arrangements for the tour, or the clerk will refer you to the government office in the courthouse that arranges tours. 

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