American Judges Association


Date of this Version

December 2004


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 40:3-4 (2004), pp. 4-7. Copyright © 2004 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


“Diversity is its strength, just as it is the strength of America itself,” wrote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor about the United States Supreme Court.1 The Court’s strength of diversity is manifested in various ways. To its thousands of visitors, the Supreme Court Building itself is perhaps the first and foremost exhibition of that strength of diversity.

In the nation’s highest court, high above the bench, are the figures of 18 historical lawgivers depicted in marble friezes. These 18 lawgivers are of different races and ethnicities, from Hammurabi to Moses to Confucius to John Marshall. They stand parallel, representing diverse legal traditions and heritages from around the world that have directly or indirectly shaped the concepts of law and justice in America.

From this building, so embodied with the ideal of diversity, the Court has issued a series of historical decisions, including Brown vs. Board of Education, transforming our nation in the last three quarters of a century into one that now finds strength in its racial and ethnic diversity. Buildings are human creations. Once created, they in turn become inspiration for human causes. This is especially true for such historical courthouses as the Supreme Court Building.

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