Located at 300 Stewart Ave, the Las Vegas Federal Courthouse and Post Office, opened on November 27th 1933 and remained in constant use until 2005. Prior to President Franklin Roosevelt’s appointment of a Federal Judge in Las Vegas the state had only one full time federal court in the state capitol, Carson City. Instead, judges from adjacent states rotated through Las Vegas hearing federal cases in the absence of a full time jurist. Judge Roger Thomas Foley’s Appointment in 1945 signified a greater projection of federal power into the “Battle Born State” and more specifically into Las Vegas. Locally, the Courthouse served both to give locals access to Federal offices but is also noteworthy due to the overwhelming federal oversight of Nevada’s natural resources and often contentious relations between the Federal Government and local residents.
The courthouse also played host to two events of national importance. On November 15th 1950 the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime convened in Las Vegas. Although this installment of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s investigation lacked the theatre of previous episodes it provided insight into sports wire operations overseen by Organized Crime thereby underscoring the national nature of the Mob. The Kefauver Hearings, apart from providing “must see television” spurred congress to pass gambling bans thereby solidifying Las Vegas’ role as the capital of American gambling. Authors Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris estimate in their book The Green Felt Jungle that organized crime invested more than $300 million in gambling operations in Las Vegas by 1962.
Later, on April 13, 1955 Hank Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, faced an “inciting murder” indictment over his editorials criticizing Senator Joe McCarthy at the height of his power. Prosecutors cited headlines reading “Is Senator McCarthy a Secret Communist” as evidence that the author, Greenspun, sought to incite McCarthy’s assassination. The council for the defense countered with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the guarantee of Free Speech, while also citing the ruin McCarthy brought to one hundred and eight State Department employees that he accused of Communist ties without any evidence. This contention thereby proposed that rather than inciting McCarthy’s murder their client was a journalist with the courage to speak truth to unchecked power. In a small victory for decency Greenspun was acquitted on the first ballot.
The Las Vegas Federal Courthouse and Post Office was recognized by the Federal Registry of Historic Places on February 10, 1983 (#83001108). The building served as a courthouse until 1965 and as a Post Office until it was purchased, re-purposed and refurbished into the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Museum visitors trace the evolution of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement from localized phenomenons to national movements while simultaneously exploring criminal influence both in illegal activities and in shaping American pop culture.