Arizona is home to numerous judges, lawyers and defendants that have played a historic role in shaping the fabric of our nation.

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Lorna Lockwood, by serving as chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court beginning in 1965, became the first female chief justice of a state supreme court in the United States. Sandra Day O’Connor, who was elected to the Maricopa County Superior Court in 1974, not only served as the first female majority leader of a state senate as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate, but later became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

legal knowledge resizeArizona’s role in the history and development of U.S. law is remarkable, and a significant piece of this history is now on full display at the Maricopa County Justice Museum and Learning Center in downtown Phoenix.

Supported by the Maricopa County Justice Museum and Learning Center Foundation, a 501(C)3 non-profit, the museum’s purpose is to collect, preserve and showcase historic materials and memorabilia about the people, issues and events related to the justice system in Arizona.

The Museum serves as a unique legal repository for historians, scholars and citizens alike. Located on the 6th floor of Maricopa County’s Old (but still kicking) Courthouse at 125 W. Washington St., the museum provides a hands-on and visually engaging environment, featuring touchscreen monitors that quiz you on your knowledge of Arizona’s legal history.

cell resizeThe 6th floor also contains the actual cellblock where many of Arizona’s most notorious prisoners were housed from 1929 until the 1960s.  Winnie Ruth Judd was incarcerated there (who inspired the “Tiger Lady” art installation by Darren Clark and Gary Patch on permanent display at Valley Bar), as well as Ernesto Miranda, from whom the Miranda Warning (i.e. “you have the right to remain silent,” etc…) originated. Guests are not only able to experience what jail life was like back in the mid-1900s, but also have a chance to view original, preserved prisoner artwork.

Visitors need only use the main entrance of the Old Courthouse and take an elevator to the Museum on the 6th floor.  It’s free!

If You Go

What: The Maricopa County Justice Museum and Learning Center

Where: 6th floor of Maricopa County’s Old Courthouse at 125 W. Washington St.

When: The museum is open for self-guided tours Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. A docent is on hand to give tours and answer questions Monday-Thursday from 12:15 – 1:15 p.m.

Note: From 12:20 – 12:45 p.m., Monday – Thursday, the Museum’s Hall of Fame Room will also be showing “The Right to Remain Silent,” a documentary presented by the Leanore Annenberg Institute for Civics that tells the story of the landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona.

Cost: Free!

Photos by Jeffrey Borup

Note: This post has been updated to reflect current museum hours.