The East Pediment

Symbols of Law

The architect and artists who designed the Supreme Court Building were students of the Beaux-Arts tradition, a movement that stressed the use of historic design elements. One element of the Beaux-Arts philosophy is that the purpose of the building should be represented in its architectural and decorative details. The Supreme Court Building, therefore, has several traditional legal symbols depicted throughout the building.

The Scales of Justice are perhaps the most familiar symbol associated with the law, symbolizing the impartial deliberation, or "weighing" of two sides in a legal dispute. The Book of Judgment or Law represents learning, written knowledge and judgments. In some places in the building, the Latin word "lex" (law) is shown on the book. Tablets of the Law have a long history in western art, signifying the permanence of law when "written in stone". Tablets signifying "the Law" are most closely associated with Moses, the Hebrew lawgiver. Over time, the use of two tablets has become a symbol for the Ten Commandments, and more generally, ancient laws. A final symbol recalling the ancient nature of written law are Scrolls of Law.

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