In May the Supreme Court decided to close its doors, literally; the front doors, up a massive marble staircase, were the iconic image of the high court, were shuttered in May and visitors directed instead to a small side entrance. Some justices dissented; in a statement (PDF), Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the possible security threats, but noted “potential security threats will exist regardless of which entrance we use. And, in making this decision, it is important not to undervalue the symbolic and historic importance of allowing visitors to enter the Court after walking up Gilbert’s famed front steps.”
Now The Washington Post is reporting on a House resolution calling on the grand entrance to be reopened. The resolution “is probably doomed, and won’t do much anyway,” but “could be the beginning of a new conversation.” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California) is seeking to reopen the doors; her resolution has more than 30 co-sponsors so far.
Although this bill, according to the Congressional Research Service, is without precedent, it seems unlikely Congress could force the court to reopen its front doors. Congress may not be able to order the doors open, but a line in the bill hints at a possible way to put the squeeze on the justices: “Congress provided the appropriation to build the current Supreme Court building and continues to provide appropriations for the Court, ensuring that justice is available to all.”
On the one hand, it is perfectly plausible for security threats against the court to cause concern. However, security is, of course, taken extremely seriously at any entrance; barring visitors from entering through the grand staircase and front doors denies the majestic entrance’s awe-inspiring promise of justice throughout the land. The tradeoff seems like a no-brainer to me.
Bonus: Resolutions often carry little legal weight and are surprisingly commonplace, more likely to be recognitions of people, organizations or holidays. House resolutions from the current Congress include:
- H.R. 6: “Recognizing the significant contribution coaches make in the life of children who participate in organized sports and supporting the goals and ideals of National Coaches Appreciation Week”
- H.R. 99: “Recognizing Edgar Allan Poe for his literary contributions to American history on the 200th anniversary of his birth”
- H.R. 521: “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the importance of having a census that is complete and accurate”
- H.R. 1001: “Congratulating North Central College on winning the 2009 NCAA Division III men’s cross country championship”
- H.R. 1244: “Recognizing the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition for its now five-year effort to promote cyber security curriculum in institutions of higher learning”
- H.R. 1603: “Expressing support for designation of September 2010 as National Craniofacial Acceptance Month”