Washington DC: The Supreme Court
Everyone in the US knows that the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land. What many people don’t know is the Supreme Court building is rather new compared to it’s Executive and Legislative counterparts. For the longest time the Supreme Court met in whatever spare room the Legislative branch had. This changed in 1929 when then Chief Justice Taft (only person to be both Chief Justice and President) argued to Congress that the Judicial branch was separate (why it took them 146 years to figure this out I don’t know) and they made plans to build the Supreme Court it’s own building. Of course, like all good legislation it took a long time and so sadly Chief Justice Taft never got to see the new Supreme Court building (it got finished in 1935).
The Supreme Court is done in the Federalist style and so it is not surprising that it’s exterior has a lot of columns and marble.
The inside however really shows off it’s 30’s design elements. In particular I really noticed the rosette ceiling motif.
I have to say that there were several spaces in the Supreme Court that I didn’t understand. One in particular was the Great Gathering Hall.
Basically, it is a very wide long hallway with marble benches and a statue of Chief Justice Marshall and the end of it. On the third floor is another hallway where you wait in line to see the Supreme Court Chamber Room so it makes the Great Gathering Hall seem rather redundant to me. From the Great Gathering Hall there is the Great Spiral Staircase (they like to use the word great alot in there) that leads to Chief Justice Hall (the waiting area for the Supreme Court Chambers).
The Great Spiral Staircase is impressive, but unfortunately they don’t let you walk on them. Not that it mattered much because we had a stroller. Having the stroller we took the not great elevator. It didn’t have great in the title, but even the elevator was highly decorated.
Upstairs is the is the Chief Justice Hall which is called that because it contains the bust of every Chief Justice. Chief Justice Hall is the entry way to the Chamber room. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in there. This is the closest we were able to get with our camera:
In the picture you can see the middle chair (second chair to the right of Denise) which is the Chief Justice’s chair when they are in session. Which in our case they were not.
The way the court runs is very interesting to me. They only meet 8 months out of the year Mon-Thurs. for only two hours from 10am-12pm. They are there until 4:30 pm, but they spend that time to review current and future cases. They get over 10,000 petitions a year, but they only hear about a 100 of them. I asked how they decide which cases are heard and which are not and the answer was in order to get on the docket (to be heard) 4 out of the 9 justices have to agree to hear your case. Once the Supreme Court agrees to hear your case there is no time limit on how long it will take to get a decision, but they cannot recess for the year until they get a decision (talk about motivation).
The Supreme Court is a very impressive building, but I have to say I hope I never have to use it, but if I did, I am glad it is there. Visiting the Supreme Court is really easy. All you have to do is show up when they are open. If they are in session you have to wait in line for a ticket and if not you can line up for lectures that they give in the chamber room. No cost for admission, but you do have to go through airport like screening.
Love the staircase. Hey! You could replace YOUR stairs with that!
Sure no problem, btw, we are taking donations! 🙂