Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Supreme Court is Closing Its Doors

Well, not really. But the main doors will soon close down for visitors and attorneys and they will have to enter through a side door. They will, however, still be allowed to exit through the main doors. The reason, according to the NYT, is security concerns.
But Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, lamented the closing, arguing that security considerations didn't warrant the closing. Some have pointed to the symbolic meaning of this and how it relates to "access to justice." My personal take is that I just don't see the point. Is the argument that the main door is harder to secure than the side door? Why? Presumably, security will still be necessary, so why the change? Was the old entrance inadequate? Were any leaks detected? I visited the Court a few months ago and security seemed tight, including x-ray and metal detectors, so this puzzles me. Moreover, I've been to other courts, and having clerked for the Israeli Supreme Court, who lets visitors and attorneys through the main door, I don't understand this move. Even more, if entrance through main doors is somehow risky, why only the Supreme Court? Why do other government buildings still allow entrance through the main door?
All of these questions might seem trivial and a bit tedious (we are, after all, only talking about a door here), but this almost instant capitulation whenever the word "security" is mentioned is concerning. I see it all too often when it comes to Israeli and Palestinian matters, and the problem is that whenever some figure of authority uses that word we are all supposed to intuit some morally fundamental truth that cannot be argued with. So I think that just uttering security doesn't cut it. I want to hear more on exactly what is it that we're concerned with here.

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