News / USA

    US Supreme Court Closes Famous Entrance

    Bronze doors with eight bas-relief panels depicting scenes in the development of Western law by John Donnelly & Sons
    Bronze doors with eight bas-relief panels depicting scenes in the development of Western law by John Donnelly & Sons

    Multimedia

    Audio

    This week, the U.S. Supreme Court closed its front entrance because of security concerns.  Visitors and litigants will now have to go through side entrances with heightened security.  The move is drawing criticism from justices, historians and the public.

    Listen to an interview with University of Virginia architecture professor Richard Guy Wilson:

    The U.S. Supreme Court building sits on First Street across from the U.S. Capitol and near the Library of Congress.  Its design is reminiscent of a Roman temple with a colonnade across the front.  

    Atop the Corinthian columns along the west front of the building are the words "Equal Justice Under Law" carved into the Vermont marble.  The bas-relief sculptures depict figures raised from a sunken background.  The facade includes sculptures representing Order, Liberty Enthroned, and Authority.  Liberty is the centerpiece of the group.

    The building was designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert and features a set of huge bronze doors. The doors have four, low-relief panels that illustrate key developments in the Western legal tradition.  Gilbert and John Donnelley, Sr. designed the doors to signify the importance of the proceedings taking place at the Court.

    Litigants and spectators alike including those from several high-profile cases - Brown vs. the Board of Education - a key case in the U.S. Civil Rights movement - and Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case on abortion - have passed through the doors into the Court chamber.

    But now that is impossible.

    Visitors can no longer enter the front door of the Supreme Court, 07 May 2010
    Visitors can no longer enter the front door of the Supreme Court, 07 May 2010

    In keeping with security recommendations, visitors, litigants and spectators must now go to the side entrances of the iconic building.  They may leave the Court through the bronze doors, but they cannot enter that way.

    On a bright, Spring day in Washington, several tour groups are gathered outside the Court.  One of those leading a tour of school children is Kent Smiema of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who is a sign language interpreter for the Close Up foundation.  Mika Bennett-Fraychineaud from Arizona, a member of the group says closing the doors sends the wrong message.

    "The front door of the Supreme Court should never be closed, let alone closed permanently," said Smiema. "We need as American citizens to be able to know what is going on in our government and the decisions the Supreme Court is making."

    Ballards help protect the entrance of the Supreme Court, 07 May 2010
    Ballards help protect the entrance of the Supreme Court, 07 May 2010

    University of Virginia Commonwealth Professor of Architectural history Richard Guy Wilson says that the intention of the entrance was to make a statement about the importance of law in the United States.  But Wilson says that closing the bronze doors is a bad idea.

    "It is, I think, very much the whole idea that we are all equal and we all stand together in front of the law," he said. "But what we have been increasingly seeing is this - and I do understand security, but there are other ways of handling security than putting you through the basement.  We used to enter a building in a sense like we were all part of royalty. And now we enter like we are a bunch of rats, in the basement."

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a statement joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg that the significance of the front entrance "extends beyond its design and function." Justice Stephens said that the entrance has been used multiple times to represent the ideal that "anyone in this country may obtain meaningful justice through application to this Court."

    The Justice said he finds the move "dispiriting" while acknowledging the need for increased security in the wake of terrorist attacks.  Justice Breyer wrote that he knows of no other Supreme Court in the world - including Israel's which faces security concerns as well - that has closed its front door.

    The official statement from the Court - which couched the move as part of its ongoing modernization project - said the decision to close the entrance was made after security studies in 2001 and 2009.  

    Moving the entrances is intended to help reduce a threat from weapons, explosives, chemical weapons and biological attacks.  Those visiting the court may still leave through the bronze doors, but - for now - going into the building that way is impossible.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.