Built in 1940, the United States Court House in Downtown Los Angeles originally served as both a post office and a courthouse. The building was designed in a Moderne style by Gilbert Stanley Underwood and Louis A. Simon. The United States Court House initially housed court facilities for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, until the District was redrawn in 1966. After that, it functioned as a court house with judges from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. In February 2006, the U.S. Court House and Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


  • A shot of the Court House with City Hall in the background.
    A shot of the Court House with City Hall in the background.
  • A shot of Courtroom 8 in the Court House.
    A shot of Courtroom 8 in the Court House.

The Court House was the third federal building to be constructed in the City of Los Angeles. The first building was constructed in 1892 and served as the post office, District Court, and other federal agencies. After growing in size, a larger building was constructed in 1910 on the corner of Main and Temple. 

As the city's population grew, a larger building was needed to serve as the courts and to house federal agencies. The second federal building was destroyed in 1937 to clear the site for the existing courthouse. Gilbert Stanley Underwood was selected to design the building. He was acclaimed for his public architecture with works in national parks, over two dozen post offices, a number of federal courthouses, and the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. 

Since then, there have been a number of interesting and high profile cases seen by the court, including:

  • Paternity case against Clark Gable
  • Paternity case against Charlie Chaplin
  • Breach of contract against Warner Brothers by Bette Davis
  • A federal case against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers
The new courthouse is a stunning example of the Art Moderne architecture style. The defining features are the stepped rectangular shape and restrained use of external ornamentation. The base is polished granite, while the 17-storey steel structure has a terra cotta facade. 

U.S. Court House & Post Office Los Angeles, California. National Park Service. Accessed July 16, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/los_angeles_us_court_house_and_post_office.html.

Historical Decades: The Beginning. CACD. Accessed July 16, 2017. https://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/newsworthy/historical-decades.

New, state-of-the-art federal courthouse officially opens in downtown L.A.. LA Times. Accessed July 16, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-federal-courthouse-downtown-20161013-snap-story.html.