Virtual Courthouse Visits:
Eastern District of Washington

Join us for our virtual tour of Courthouses around the Ninth Circuit! 

The first stop on our tour is the Eastern District of Washington. With three lovely courthouses – one in Spokane; one in Yakima; and one in Richland, there is so much to see, as each Courthouse building is not only architecturally and historically interesting on its own, but the lobby of each Courthouse also contains beautifully designed historical displays!

An outgrowth of their extensive public civics outreach efforts, the EDWA Court began planning these Exhibits in 2014.  They first created an Historical Exhibit Committee, made up of district and bankruptcy judges, court unit executives, the Ninth Circuit Librarian, General Services Administration (GSA) facilities managers, and the GSA historian.  The Committee worked diligently in partnership with the exhibit design firm, Sea Reach Ltd. of Sheridan, Oregon, using a “places, cases, and faces” approach to historical education for the displays.

The resulting Exhibits, first displayed in 2017, address the formation of the District, its U.S. courthouse locations, the judges who have served since its formation, and cases that have had significant impact on both the district and federal law, including Alvarez et al. v. IBP (1999), (addressing worker compensation for time required to don and doff required extensive protective gear by slaughterhouse and meat packing plant workers) and In re Washington State Apple Advertising Commission (2003), (do fees paid to create ad campaigns promoting the state’s apple crop effectively force members to advertise for their competitors, thus infringing on their free speech rights). Perhaps no case on the Exhibits reflects greater impact on Eastern Washington residents than In re Hanford Nuclear Reservation (1991). As a result of this case, in response to citizen requests, the government released previously classified information, which included the fact that during the 1940’s and early 1950’s, the stacks of the Hanford reactors had emitted radioactive chemicals into the air impacting Eastern Washington residents to this day.

The remarkable history and national impact of the Eastern District does not stop at case law. Notably, the William O. Douglas Courthouse in Yakima takes its names from the longest serving Supreme Court justice who grew up in Yakima, was the valedictorian at Yakima High School, and went on to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Douglas said that his summer working in a cherry orchard in Eastern Washington later inspired him to pursue his legal career after having seen the challenges and inequities migrant workers faced working in the fields. 

Watch our program on “The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas”!

The Eastern District’s three courthouses are beautiful and worth an in-person visit once safety guidelines allow.

For more information about the Courthouses and their Historical Exhibits, read YOU ARE (or were) HERE: Eastern District of Washington Unveils Historical Displays by Renee McFarland and Sean McAvoy

Thanks to Lauren Fricke, Seattle Univ. Law School  ’22