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Did You Know: Arizona Has A Historic Supreme Court Chamber

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, January 23, 2015 - 2:58pm
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Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/KJZZ
The walls of the Historic Supreme Court Chamber.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
The wooden long bench in among several original fixtures in the Historic Supreme Court Chamber at the Arizona Capitol Museum.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/ KJZZ News)
The state emblem embossed doorknobs in the Historic Supreme Court Chamber are among the few of its kind at the Arizona Capitol Museum.
Chief Justice Lorna Lockwood served on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1961 to 1975. She was Chief Justice from 1965 to 1966 and 1970 to 1971. Lockwood was the first female Chief Justice of Arizona and the first in any U.S. State Supreme Court.

The Arizona Supreme Court is located a short walk away from the state capitol building near downtown Phoenix. Throughout the state’s history, the high court moved several times. One of its locations is just a stone's throw away from where it is today.

Ask someone what sits on 17th Avenue and Washington Street and many would say that’s where the state capitol is located. That’s true. But, Did You Know…that’s also where the Arizona Supreme Court was located for more than 30 years?

“From 1938 through early ’74 this was home to the Arizona Supreme Court," said Alice Duckworth, the collections manager for the Arizona Capitol Museum. “The courtroom was intended to hold, at the most, 70 people so that people could come and watch the cases as they happened.”

The room is now called the Historic Supreme Court Chamber. It’s located on the 2nd floor of the 1938 state capitol addition. Among the very few pieces of original features and furniture are the long wooden court bench, metal light fixtures and door knobs embossed with the state emblem. And the door behind the bench is a connecting entryway to what was the Chief Justice’s office.

“The walls are tuff stone from the Prescott area. So, when we look around the room we see that it almost looks like is pock-marked because it isn’t naturally smooth," said Duckworth.

Several high-profile cases were argued in this chamber. Among them, Harrison and Austin v. Laveen — the case concerned Native Americans’ right to vote in Arizona. The Gault case focused on the rights of a minor to due process. And the Miranda Rights case, which dealt with legal representation were also argued here. These last two cases were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing new rules for criminal defendants.  

“Now this courtroom is the conference room for the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records and also made available to the public and other state agencies for use.”

There is another historic point of interest about this chamber: Lorna Lockwood, who took office in 1961. She was the first female chief justice in Arizona from 1965 to 1966 and again from 1970 to 1971. She was also the first female chief justice in any U.S. State Supreme Court. Chief Lockwood was also considered by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

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