Law and the Great Plains: Essays on the Legal History of the Heartland

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

8
Observations on One Hundred Years of Federal Judging in Western Missouri District Court

Lawrence H. Larsen

It can be said that the judges of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri from 1857 to 19601 were not facile, compliant judges. They were not political hacks of little personality and few ideas who were intent on doing the bidding and carrying out the policies of the presidents who appointed them to the federal district bench. Rather, with perhaps one or two exceptions, they were, in the true sense of the word, leaders who displayed a great deal of judicial independence.

What is now known as the Western District of Missouri was originally the District of Missouri. At its creation in 1822, it covered roughly the northern half of the Louisiana Purchase that was unsettled. Federal judicial business for the central and northern Plains was carried to the Missouri region. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the district shrank significantly to encompass just the state of Missouri. Three years later Missouri was divided into two federal districts, the Eastern and Western Districts. Since 1857 the Western District of Missouri has been geographically stable.

The center for the Western District court eventually revolved around Kansas City. On the periphery of the Great Plains, Kansas City was evolving into a major metropolitan area. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century it established itself as an economic and cultural magnet for the central Plains region.

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