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After months of development, the Missouri Supreme Court has launched a new interactive website celebrating the bicentennial of The Missouri Judiciary.

Available at courts.mo.gov/bicentennial, the website chronicles events across five stages in the growth of the state's court system, from pre-statehood territorial courts to the courts' shift to remote proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Missouri's constitution and the state court system it creates predate statehood by more than a year. Both were created in July 1820, but as a result of the Missouri Compromise where Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine as a free state to preserve the balance of power in Congress, Missouri did not gain official statehood until August — 200 years ago this summer.

The new website, which features interactive timelines, offers users a chance to explore the early days of Missouri's courts, discover how the courts expanded to address the state's increased case volume, learn about additional changes in the 20th century and explore how Missouri's courts reorganized to better serve citizens. Its final timeline on the judiciary's much more recent history examines how embracing new technologies are helping the courts improve their service.

"Though the mechanisms for improvement continue to develop, the courts' changes over time have been driven by public expectations for innovation in service, increased access, and greater efficiency and effectiveness along with a desire to make our courts better for everyone," said Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mary Russell, a member of the court's bicentennial committee and state's bicentennial commission.

"Although our early territorial judges would probably not recognize our courts today, the principles underlying our judicial system remain steadfast the rule of law, the guarantee of due process and the opportunity to be heard," she said.

Russell said the website is designed to be fluid, so content can continue to be added to the timeline. It will be featured prominently on the Missouri Courts website through the state's bicentennial and then will be archived online so it can continue serving as a resource about the history of Missouri's courts.

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