Supreme Court Closes Front Doors

May 3, 2010 1:26pm

ABC News' Ariane de Vogue reports:

For many, the journey of arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court begins with a climb up forty-four marble steps, almost blindingly white in a sunny day, and passing under the famous words, "Equal Justice Under the Law."

Today, the Court announced it is closing that entrance to the public, and instead will require all visitors to use two side entrances.

In a sign of the times, the Court announced that the new entrances provide "secure, reinforced" areas to "screen for weapons, explosives, and chemical and biological hazards."  Visitors will still be able to exit from the main entrance.

The new entrances are a result of an extensive ongoing construction project at the Court.

In 2005, unrelated to the project, a chunk of marble weighing almost 200 pounds broke off from the entrance and landed on the stairs. No one was injured.

The decision to close the front entrance is not unanimously supported by the Justices.

Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented and released a memorandum mourning the Court's decision.

They say the front entrance symbolizes more than just an entry way: "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," they write.

The two dissenters point out that no other Court worldwide — even in places with far greater security concerns – has closed its main entrance to the public.

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