Security Risks Close Supreme Court Doors

Supreme Court experience won't be the same

By Sharon Donnell
|  Monday, May 3, 2010  |  Updated 11:31 PM EDT
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Security Risks Close Supreme Court Doors

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Visitors to the Supreme Court will no longer ascend 44 marble steps, pass through the iconic bronze doors and cross under the threshold bearing the simple but eloquently stated core value: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

The experience, significant from both a historic and symbolic perspective, is no more.
 
As of Tuesday, visitors to the high court will enter the building on the plaza level to undergo security checks. Visitors will still be allowed to exit the building through the front doors.
 
The Washington Post first reported the change, which had been debated within the court for years.
 
"The new entrance, which will serve as the primary means for public entry, was designed in light of findings and recommendations from two independent security studies conducted in 2001 and 2009," the court said in a news release. "The entrance provides a secure, reinforced area to screen for weapons, explosives, and chemical and biological hazards."
 
The change was opposed by some justices who objected to altering the symbolic experience of entering the historic Cass Gilbert-designed building, the Post reported.
 
Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the court's decision.
 
"The significance of the Court's front entrance extends beyond its design and function," Breyer wrote in a statement joined by Ginsburg. "Writers and artists regularly use the steps to represent the ideal that anyone in this country may obtain meaningful justice through application to this Court. And the steps appear in countless photographs commemorating famous arguments or other moments of historical importance.
 
"In short, time has proven the success of Gilbert's vision: To many members of the public, this Court's main entrance and front steps are not only a means to, but also a metaphor for, access to the Court itself."

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