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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Foggy went a-courtin'...Supreme courtin', that is

I've actually had the luxury of some free time in my schedule (not much, mind you, but some) between the end of consular training in the middle of this month, and the beginning of intensive Mandarin Chinese studies due to begin right after Labor Day. Today, I had to travel to Foggy Bottom in the District for a State Department-related consultation, but once that was finished, I was free. And so it was I ended up paying a visit to the United States Supreme Court, just a short walk up First Street from the Capitol South Metro Station. The building's western facade, alas, is undergoing some sort of renovation, resulting in a covering up of the famous "Equal Justice Under Law" motto:


This, of course, is what it normally looks like:


At least The Contemplation of Justice and The Authority of Law weren't under wraps:



The Greek Temple motif continued once inside the building. This Temple Colossus style of architecture dominates in the nation's capital, and I find it to be simultaneously impressive and oppressive. Washington is chock full of impressive structures, but their sheer size and explicit links to the ancient world are seemingly designed to remind you of where governing power actually resides. In the judicial branch of the federal government, that authority lies with the Supreme Court, of course, and the Chief Justice who gave the court its power of judicial review, John Marshall, presides over the ground floor in Greek God glory:


Still, it is one hell of a building. The spiral staircases are closed to the general public, but are still a sight to behold looking up from ground level:


I obviously chose the wrong day to visit as the Court Chamber on the first floor was closed this afternoon, but visitors were still allowed to peek in from the outside:


The first floor is dominated by the Great Hall, which has it all when it comes to Temple of Justice architecture - high painted ceiling, marble columns and busts of all the Chief Justices:



At least the east facade wasn't hidden from view. One of the figures above the motto "Justice the Guardian of Liberty" is none other than Confucius 孔子 (the sage on the left in the photo below):



Scaffolding issues aside, the Supreme Court Building is a worthwhile destination. In terms of sheer daunting displays of individual insignificance, however, nothing rivals the U.S. Capitol, which sits across the street:


That one will have to be saved for another day.

Prior to my morning meeting at one of the State annexes, I found myself with some time to kill, having arrived a little early. So I took a short walk, and the following shots, starting with Washington Circle:


Not your typical Washington, D.C. townhouse:


This statue of late 19th-century Mexican President Benito Juárez was a gift from Mexico to the United States. Stirring as it was, I was more interested in the Watergate complex in the background:













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