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What is a Courthouse?

A courthouse is a pivotal building where legal cases are heard and justice is administered. It's where judges, lawyers, and citizens converge for trials and hearings. Intrigued by the pillars of justice? Discover the architectural grandeur and solemn proceedings within a courthouse's walls.
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A courthouse is a building in which local courts of law conduct trials and other business pertaining to the justice system. The term "courthouse" is most commonly used in North America, and similar terms are used in other parts of the world. Regional and local courts are often housed in a courthouse, and Federal courts are also housed in what are known as Federal courthouses. Most buildings that house the courts are retrofitted with security devices such as metal detectors and x-ray machines as a precaution against violence that has occurred in the recent past at various courthouses throughout the world.

Security personnel are always on site at a courthouse, both at the entrances and exits of the building, and very often in the courtrooms themselves. The security personnel must be trained properly to protect the inhabitants of the building from potential threats, and they must have knowledge of the operation of all security devices. Any violence or threats of violence will be dealt with by security personnel.

A courthouse can serve as a place for simple marriage ceremonies.
A courthouse can serve as a place for simple marriage ceremonies.

There are many reasons why one may need to visit a courthouse. Trials take place regularly in courthouses, and civil and criminal hearings may take place while a judge presides over the proceedings. Several different types of courts exist, and sometimes more than one type of court is housed in a courthouse. Civil courts, for example, hear different types of cases than criminal courts, though the two types of courts may be housed in the same building, especially in smaller towns and regions.

Civil and criminal hearings may take place in a courthouse, with a judge presiding over the proceedings.
Civil and criminal hearings may take place in a courthouse, with a judge presiding over the proceedings.

Marriage certificates are also given out at a courthouse. Any couple wishing to get married must go to the courthouse to obtain a license; the couple pays a fee and verifies their identities to court staff. The certificate is then issued, and it must be verified before the marriage is considered valid. Other services that may be offered at courthouses include cashier services at which a person can pay fines such as parking or speeding tickets, legal document services, and passport services.

Courthouses may play host to civil and criminal trials throughout a county as well. County courts will be the location of court proceedings concerning cases that may have taken place hundreds of miles away in the same county, which means the people involved in the case may have to travel great distances. Such courthouses are usually located in the most populous areas of the county to accommodate the biggest concentration of people in that county.

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Discussion Comments


There is a lot of information contained in courthouse records, both for people and companies.

You can get everything from a birth certificate, copy of a death certificate, divorce information and a history of how court cases turned out.

My son needed a copy of his birth certificate, and it was a lot faster to personally go down to the courthouse to get a copy than waiting for them to send it in the mail.

If you are needing to do any kind of research or find some background information on a person or business, many times you can find the information in the courthouse records.

Most times, you will need to pay a fee for the information, but it is usually nominal.


We had some friends who had a courthouse wedding. Both of them had been married at least twice before, and they just wanted something simple and cheap.

I can understand the simple and cheap, but I still don't think I would want to have a courthouse marriage.

When they went to the courthouse to get their marriage license, they scheduled a date with the Justice of the Peace. As long as they had a couple of witnesses, they were good to go.

It really was pretty cheap. In some states, you will pay more if you don't take a marriage course. If you go through the course, then your fee is less.

You don't have to worry about dressing up, flowers, invitations and a lot of other expenses and arrangements that go along with a wedding.

I know there must be other people who do this, because they had to wait a few weeks before they could get a date scheduled.


In the state I live in, most of the courthouse buildings are located in the county seat. Many of them in the smaller towns are in the center of the town square.

The last time I visited the courthouse was to protest my property taxes. It had been several years since I had been there, and I was surprised at the level of security you had to go through.

Years ago, you were able to walk in the courthouse without you or your belongings being searched. I do understand the reasons why, but just wasn't expecting it.


@SkyWhisperer - Actually there are a lot of reasons one might visit the courthouse, apart from situations where you’re required to do so.

Some time ago I bought a course on real estate investing. This course was designed to teach you how to find distressed properties, buy them for next to nothing, and then flip them for a profit.

In order to work the system however you would have to visit the county courthouse. You’d need to access courthouse records to conduct your research on various types of properties.

In other words, you would need to do your homework. I am sure the system works, but I didn’t exactly have all day to spend at the court house doing research. But I can certainly see how getting hold of that information would give you the leverage you needed to get your hands on some sweet property deals.


There are only two times in my life where I have had to visit the county courthouse. One was when I needed to get a marriage certificate. Fortunately this was a very painless process, even though it involved paperwork.

The other time was when I was a juror in a criminal trial. I would love to say that this was a painless process too but it was not. I had to wait a couple of days, down in the basement of the courthouse as it were, before they finally called my name.

The trial itself lasted over a week and we deliberated for over ten hours. It was an interesting experience but when it was done I was glad to be done with the courthouse. Some people who worked there weren’t exactly the most chipper folks you’d come across. I’ll just leave it at that.

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    • A courthouse can serve as a place for simple marriage ceremonies.
      By: LA Photographer
      A courthouse can serve as a place for simple marriage ceremonies.
    • Civil and criminal hearings may take place in a courthouse, with a judge presiding over the proceedings.
      By: Junial Enterprises
      Civil and criminal hearings may take place in a courthouse, with a judge presiding over the proceedings.