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The Court and Democracy
The Look of Authority
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The Look of Authority

Like all U.S. judges, the justices of the Supreme Court wear black robes and sit perched on a wooden bench above the plaintiffs and defendants whose cases they hear. Even if you've never stopped to wonder why judges wear robes or use gavels, when you enter a courtroom it's immediately clear that these symbols help convey the judge's authority. Ultimately, the Supreme Court's power rests in Article III of the U.S. Constitution -- but, like most institutions with claims to authority, the Court's appearance helps to validate that authority in the public eye. In a democratic society, the Court must present an image of itself that will inspire confidence in its intelligence, integrity, and impartiality. by Jennifer Hallam, Ph.D.

Instructions: How does the U.S. Supreme Court create its particular look of authority? Find out by exploring some of the objects and architecture that define it visually. In the pages that follow, you will see a series of images. Roll over the highlighted portions of the images to learn how certain symbols, styles, and structures work to create and affirm the authority of the United States' highest court. get started
The Supreme Court Seal The Supreme Court Building The Supreme Court Chamber The Judicial Robe