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Going up? Not at Supreme Court entrance

For security reasons, the marble steps have been closed to those entering the building. You can still use the steps upon exiting. To see the grand facade, just swivel your head.

May 03, 2010|By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

The Supreme Court announced Monday it was closing its grand front entrance to the arriving public, prompting dissents from two justices who said the open front door was a powerful symbol of equal justice for all.

Starting on Tuesday, visitors will not be permitted to walk up the marble steps to enter the building under the facade that says "Equal Justice Under Law."

Instead, for security reasons, they will be required to enter a side entrance and go through screening devices. This change, several years in the making, had been recommended as a security precaution.

The new screeners can check for "weapons, explosives and chemical and biological hazards," the court said in a statement.

Upon leaving the building, visitors will be able to walk down the marble steps.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the change "unfortunate" and said he believed it was not needed. "I write in the hope that the public will one day in the future be able to enter the Court's Great Hall after passing under the famous words 'Equal Justice Under Law.' "

The Supreme Court building, with its marble staircase, was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and opened in 1935. "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," he wrote. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she agreed with Breyer.

david.savage@latimes.com

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