Educational Resources

Welcome to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa!

The first federal District Court of Iowa was established on December 28th, 1846, when Iowa was admitted to the Union and established as a single federal district. As the state grew, demand for court services increased, and the Act of July 20th, 1882 divided Iowa into two federal districts. (Learn more about the history of the Southern District of Iowa here.) Today, the Southern District’s court sites are located in Davenport, Des Moines, and Council Bluffs.

The first U.S. District Judge for the state of Iowa was John J. Dyer, who served from 1844-1855. He was followed by Judge James M. Love, (1855-1891), Judge John F. Dillon (1869-1879), Judge George Washington McCrary (1880-1884), Judge John S. Woolson (1891-1899), Judge Smith McPherson (1900-1915), Judge Martin Wade  (1915-1931), Judge Charles Dewey (1928-1949), Judge Carroll Switzer (1950), Judge William F. Riley (1950-1956), Judge Edwin R. Hicklin (1957-1960), Judge Roy J. Stephenson (1960-1971), Judge William C. Hanson(1962-1977), Judge William C. Stewart (1971-1986), and Judge Donald E. O’Brien (1978-1992). Current U.S. District Judges for the Southern District of Iowa include Chief District Judge James E. Gritzner, Senior District Judge Robert W. Pratt, Senior District Judge Ronald E. Longstaff, Senior District Judge Harold D. Vietor, Senior District Judge Charles R. Wolle, District Judge John A. Jarvey, and District Judge Stephanie M. Rose. Magistrate Judges for the Southern District of Iowa include Chief Magistrate Judge Celeste F. Bremer, Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Shields, and Magistrate Judge Ross A. Walters.

Generally, federal courts handle cases that involve the U.S. government, the U.S. Constitution, and federal law. Disputes between citizens from different states, a U.S. citizen and a citizen of a foreign country, or the U.S. government and a foreign government are processed through federal courts. A district federal court is a court of original jurisdiction, meaning that the cases brought to a district federal court are being argued for the first time. Several famous cases have come through the Southern District of Iowa, including Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) and Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp. (1980).

Studying the judicial system is an exciting way to discover our nation’s rich history and understand our present government and culture. Please continue to learn more by exploring the rest of our page, or even scheduling a tour of the Federal Courthouses in Davenport, Des Moines, or Council Bluffs!

Thanks for visiting, and we hope to see you soon!