Representing Justice

By mapping the remarkable run of the icon of Justice, a woman with scales and sword, and by tracing the development of public spaces dedicated to justice—courthouses—the authors explore the evolution of adjudication into its modern form as well as the intimate relationship between the courts and democracy. The authors analyze how Renaissance “rites” of judgment turned into democratic “rights,” requiring governments to respect judicial independence, provide open and public hearings, and accord access and dignity to “every person.” With over 220 images, readers can see both the longevity of aspirations for justice and the transformation of courts, as well as understand that, while venerable, courts are also vulnerable institutions that should not be taken for granted. This website gives readers a preview to some of those images and much more.

The relationship between courts and democracy is at the center of this book, and the principal claims can be set forth simply.  First, adjudication is proto-democratic in that courts were an early site of constraint on government.  Even when judges were required to be loyal servants of the state, they were instructed to "hear the other side" and told not to favor either the rich or the poor.  When resolving disputes and sanctioning violations of their laws, rules acknowledged through public rituals of adjudication that something other than pure power legitimated their authority.

Second, democracy changed adjudication.  "Rites" turned into "rights," imposing requirements that governments provide "open and public" hearings and respect the independence of judges.  Courts developed alongside the press and the post as mechanisms for the dissemination of knowledge about government.  Yet adjudication made a special contribution, offering a space in which ordinary persons gained, momentarily, the ability to call even the government to account.  The circle of those eligible to come to court enlarged radically, and the kinds of harms recognized as wrongful multiplied.


Not only did all persons gain rights to equal treatment and dignity; they were also recognized as entitled to occupy all the roles - litigant, witness, lawyer, judge, juror - in courts.  The nature of rights changed as well, as whole new bodies of law emerged, restructuring family life, reshaping employee and consumer protections, and recognizing indigenous, civil, and environmental rights.  Courts rescaled in local and national contexts to cope with rising filings.  Crossing borders, governments came together to create multi-national adjudicatory bodies, from the "Mixed Courts of Egypt" and the Salve Trade Commissions of the nineteenth century to the contemporary regional and international courts, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.  The evolving norms reorganizing the roles of the judge and imposing new obligations for courts moved from local to national to regional and trans-national institutions.


Third, both the longevity and the transformation of courts can be seen through tracing the shared political icons of the female Virtue Justice and of buildings called courthouses.  Looking at the evolution and changing configurations of places designated courts enables one to map dramatic shifts in the scope and ambitions of governments.  Over time Justice became a symbol of government and courts an obligation of governance.  Further, as everyone became entitled to use courts, conflicts emerged about how to personify Justice, what "she" should look like, and what symbols deserved places of honor.


Fourth, democracy has not only changed courts but also challenges them profoundly.  Most governments do not adequately fund their justice systems to make good on promises of equal justice before the law.  Contemporary responses depend on various modes of privatization, including reconfiguration of court-based processes to manage and settle disputes outside the public purview, devolution of fact-finding to agencies and tribunals where judges are less visible and independent and the processes less public, and diversion of decision-making to private arbitration and mediation.  These incursions are masked by a spate of courthouse building projects creating architecturally important structure that are, in some respects, distant from the needs for adjudication and the daily activities of judges.  Most of the new courthouses, often clad in class to mark justice's transparency, celebrate courts without reflecting on the problems of access, injustice, opacity and the complexity of rendering judgments.

Fifth, the movement away from public adjudication is a problem for democracies because adjudication is a problem for democracies because adjudication has important contributions to make to democracy.  Adjudication is itself a democratic process, which reconfigures power as it obliges disputants and judges to treat each other as equals, to provide information to each other, and to offer public justifications for decisions based on the interaction of fact and norm.  Thus Jeremy Bentham's insistence on "publicity," Jurgen Habermas's interest in the "public sphere," and Michel Foucault's understanding of the power of surveillance inform our thesis of distinct power for courts in producing, redistributing and curbing power.

Sixth, courts as we know them today are recent inventions.  The possibility offered - of what Nancy Fraser has called "participatory parity" - is an outgrowth of social movements pressing governments to treat all persons with dignity and accord them equal status under law.  Yes, while monumental in ambition and often in physical girth, the durability of courts as active sites of public exchange before independent judges out not to be taken for granted.  Like other venerable institutions of the eighteenth century - the postal service and the press - courts face serious challenges in the twenty-first.


Our task is to document these six claims.  In this book, we trace the imagery that became the political iconography of town halls as well as the elaboration of purpose-built structures that came to be called courthouses.  We move across oceans and ideas to map the emergence of rights that shifted the paradigm of legitimacy for governments.  From the eighteenth through the twentieth-first centuries, interactions among lawyers, architects, judges, and government administrators captured political commitments and economic support for courthouses.  We illustrate these phenomena through sketches of the development of courts in the United States, of major building projects in France, Israel, Finland, and a few other countries, and of the regional and international courts of the Americas, Europe and the United Nations.  After examining transnational efforts to develop alternatives to adjudication, we turn to the future of courts, which occupies the final segment of the book.  Drawing on examples from South Africa, Mexico, Australia, and Minnesota, we provide images of what a democratic iconography of justice - struggling to deal with failures and challenges as well as authority - could entail.

Judith Resnik and Dennis E. Curtis
New Haven, Connecticut, June, 2010





Chapter One: A Remnant of the Renaissance - The Transnational Iconography of Justice

"To practice justice today is an ambitious project, and to represent it requires devising ways to acknowledge what democracy brings to adjudication: a new and genuinely radical aspiration to find ways to make earthly justice available to more people, if not all. "

A Pictorial Puzzle

A Virtuous Visual Competition

  • The Cardinal and Theological Virtues in a Psychomachia
  • The Cohort
  • Justice's Ascent

Justice's Violence


Visualizing Justice's Pain and Challenges

Adjudication's Transformation: Access for All Before Independent Judges in Open Court

  • Celebrating and Understanding New Demands
  • Building Idioms: Transparency, Access, Identity and Security

Democracy's Challenges

Re-Presenting Justice




Chapter Two: Civic Space, the Public Square, and Good Governance

"As a form of political propaganda, Justice has had a remarkable and distinctive run."


A Long Political Pedigree: Shamash, Maat, Dike, and Themis

Justicia, St. Michael, and the Cardinal Virtue Justice

Civic Spaces, Allegories of Good and Bad Government, and Fourteenth-Century Sienna

  • Public Buildings Fashioning Civic Identities
  • Lorenzetti and the Palazzo Pubblico
  • Justice Bound by Tyranny
  • Theories of Governance: Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Latini, God, and Political Propaganda
  • Good Government on the East and West Coasts of the United States: Reiterations by Caleb Ives Bach and Dorothea Rockburne

Last Judgments in Town Halls

  • Civic Public and Christian
  • "For that judgment you judge, shall redound on you": The Magdeburg Mandate
  • Conflating the Last Judgment with Trials
Chapter Three: Obedience - The Judge as the Loyal Servant of the State

"The inspirational image of Justice as a virtuous goddess is commonplace in contemporary buildings.  But few of the weighty allegorical depictions that were ubiquitous from the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries have come down to us.  These complex images were part of a tradition called exempla virtutis (examples of virtue) that identified acts “worthy of imitation” and therefore appropriate to display on town hall walls.  By unearthing the classical myths, biblical stories, and Renaissance emblems that make decipherable pictures that might otherwise be ignored, one can find many references to the violence entailed—both for the judged and for judges—in adjudication."

Flayed Alive or Maimed: Judicial Obligations Inscribed on Town Hall Walls in Bruges and Geneva

The Challenge and Pain of Rendering Judgement: Amsterdam's Seventeenth-Century Town Hall

"So Shall You Be Judged"

Chapter Four: Of Eyes and Ostriches

"Although the blindfold has come to be valorized, it was once seen—as cartoonists often use it today — to denote a disabled Justice, blind to or hiding from the truth."


Blind to the Light and Blindfolded by the Fool

  • The Blindfolded Justice in the Amsterdam Tribunal
  • "Open the eyes that are blind"
  • Synagoga: Blind to the "Light" of Christianity
  • Justice and Judges as Fools
  • Alciatus's Theban Judges and Ripa's Injunctions: "A Steely Gaze," the Eye of the God, and Bandaged Eyes
  • Brugel's Justice (or Injustice?)
  • Bamhoudere's Janus-Faced Justice
  • Turning a Critical Eye

Transcendent, Wide-Eyed, and Amidst the Animals

  • Raphael's Glory of Justice
  • Symbolism's Caprice: The Many Animals of Justice
    • The Proud and the Dead Bird: Giulio Romano's Justice with an Ostrich in the Vatican and Luca Giordano's Justice Disarmed.
    • Sheep and Foxes, Dogs and Serpents: Rubens's Wide-Eyed Justice

The Past as Prologue: Sighted or Blindfolded, and Tall

  • Venice as Justice, Justice as Venice
  • Across the English Channel
    • Queen Anne as Justice
    • The Lord Mayor's Show
    • Dublin's Justice
    • Old Bailey's Open-Eyed and Wide-Eyed and Wide-Armed Justice
  • Across the Atlantic Ocean: Kansas's Sharp Eyed Prairie Falcon and Vancouver's Peaceful Justice

A Resilient, Albeit Invented, Tradition

Chapter Five: Why Eyes? Color, Blindness, and Impartiality

Disputes about how to show Justice’s “face” and about Law’s “sight” reflect the analytic challenges that have engaged philosophers from John Locke to John Rawls, as they parsed the relationships among sensory perceptions, intuition, evidentiary truths, and cognition. The question of sight has also been engaged by leaders of justice systems acknowledging histories of exclusion and unfair subordination based on the gender, race, ethnicity, and class of disputants."

Inconographical Conventions, Pictorial Puzzles, and Justice's Blindfold

Constitutional Metaphors and Injustices

  • Color-Blind
  • Impartial or Unjust?  The "Festering Sores" behind the Blindfold in Langston Hughes's Justice
  • Confrontation, Eyewitnesses, Prison Garb, Spectator's Badges, and Ostrich Imagery
Chapter Six: Representation and Abstractions - Identity, Politics, and Rights

"As democratic regimes came to power, governing bodies continued to insist on their own authority to select and direct artists to shape symbols claimed to signify their principles. During the twentieth century, however, as women and men of all colors came to be recognized as rights holders, the decision about which female body was to be called Justice became more complex."

Juridical Rights and Iconography

  • Public Art and Popular Dismay
  • Batcolumns and Mariannes

Breaching the Conventions of Justice when Decorating the Public Sphere

Judging the Judges: From Spectator to Critical Observer

  • The Appearance of Impartiality
  • Duck Blinds in 2004
  • Restructuring Law's Possibilities
  • Systemic Unfairness in Individualized Justice
  • Structural Interventions: Judicial Task Forces on Bias in the Courts

Glimpsing the Gaps

Chapter Seven: From Seventeenth-Century Town Halls to Twentieth-Century Courts

"The deployment of courthouses to signify government was not simply an outgrowth of the expansion of political and economic power. Rather, this special form of building reflects the intersecting interests of three professions— lawyers, judges, and architects—that generated the building type now known as a courthouse."


Public and Social Traditions in Town and Country Courts


Building a New Legal System in the United States

  • A Grounding in Colonial and State Court Systems
    • Purpose-Built Structures: From Houses to Taverns to Courts
    • Segregating Interiors by Roles and Race
    • Architecture and Adornment
    • Juridical Privilege, Exclusion and Protest
  • Marking a "Federal Presence"
    • Borrowing Space, Rules and Administrative Support
    • Custom Houses, Marine Hospitals, and Post Offices
    • Professional Architects and Public Patronage
    • Courts - From California to the New York Island
      • Statehood for Texas and a New Federal Building in Galveston
      • Building and Rebuilding in Des Moines and Biloxi
    • Moving Further, Farther, and Higher
      • Westward Expansion: Denver, Missoula, and San Diego
      • Offshore and Across Land: Puerto Rico and Alaska
      • Sky High in New York City

Architectural Statements and Obsolescence

Chapter Eight: A Building and Litigation Boom in Twentieth-Century Federal Courts

"Three agencies—the Judicial Conference of the United States with its Administrative Office (AO); the General Services Administration (GSA) with its subdivisions, the Public Buildings Service and the Art-in-Architecture Program; and the National Endowment for the Arts—come to the fore as they cooperated and competed for authority and for dollars to shape representations of the federal government and its justice."

Institutional Girth: In-House Administration, Research, and a Corporate Voice

  • William Howard Taft's Innovations
  • Building the Administrative Apparatus
  • "Court Quarters"

Putting Cases into Courts: the Second Reconstruction

  • Rights across the Board
  • From a Three-Story Courthouse in Grand Forks to Twenty-Eight Floors in St. Louis and 760,000 Square Feet in Boston
  • Housing the Corporate Judiciary

Redesigning Federal Buildings

  • The Peripheral Role of "Fine Art"
  • John F. Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Government Space: The 1960s Guiding Principles
  • Inelegant Design: The National Endowment for the Arts as Architectural Critic
  • Subsequent Precepts: Preservation, Conservation, Accessibility, Sociability, and Security
  • GSA's Design Excellence Program


Chapter Nine: Late Twentieth-Century United States Courts: Monumentality, Security, and Eclectic Imagery

"The next landmark in a narration of the history of federal courts and of federal building is the commitment by Congress to replace, expand, and renovate hundreds of courthouse facilities."

Renovation, Rent and William Rehnquist

  • Court Design Guides
    • Rescaling the Proportions
    • Routing Circulation to Avoid Contact
    • Dedicated Courtrooms
  • Negotiating Rent and Space
    • Cutting into the Judicial Dollar
    • Inter-Agency, Inter-Branch Oversight or Intrusion
    • "Rent Relief"
    • A Courtroom of One's Own
  • Judicial Political Acumen and Incongruity: The Rehnquist Judiciary's monuments to Federal Adjudication


  • Selecting Community-Friendly Art to "stand the test of time"
  • Collaborative Diversity
  • Quietly Quizzical: Tom Otterness in Portland, Oregon and Jenny Holzer in Sacramento, California
  • "Plop art" and Building Norms
Chapter Ten: Monuments to the Present and Museums of the Past - National Courts (and Prisons)

"Around the globe, government leaders have chosen to house some of their adjudicatory services in buildings designed to be unique, impressive, and secure."

Comparative Currents

  • Singularly Impressive, Diverse, and Homogeneous
  • The Business of Building Courts: The Academy of Architecture for Justice

Justice Palaces for France

  • Legible Architecture for an Evolving Justice
  • "Le 1% decoratif"
  • Jean Nouvel and Jenny Holzer in Nantes

Creating New Symbols of Nationhood: A Supreme Court Building for Israel

  • "Circles of Justice" and Laws That Are "Straight"
  • Roman Cardos, British Courtyards, Moorish Arches, and Jerusalem Stone
  • Judgment at the Gate
  • "The Symbols"
  • Reiterating Familiar Motifs

New and Recycled from Melbourne to Helsinki

  • "Australian in concept and materials": Melbourne's Commonwealth Law Courts
  • From a Liquor Factory to a District Court in Helsinki

"Justice Facilities": Jails, Prisons, and Courts

Chapter Eleven: Constructing Regional Rights

Judging Across Borders

"Mixed Courts," The Slave Trade and Special Venues for Foreigners

Nation-States Allied Through Courts

  • Luxembourg and the European Court of Justice
    • Enduring (and Expanding) Authority: Le Palais Plus
    • Dominique Perrault's Golden "morphological development"
    • "Under the watchful eye of paintings and sculptures"
  • Strasbourg and the European Court of Human Rights
    • Le Palais des Droits de L'Homme
    • Building-in Expansion (for Space and Rights)
    • Richard Rogers's "monumental cylinders"
    • "Easier to see your neighbor's human rights violations than your own"
    • The ECtHR and the ECJ: The Form of Resources
  • Regional Law: The Organization of American States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
    • The 1907 Central American Court of Justice: A "permanent court of justice"
    • Shaping a Pan-American Convention on Human Rights
    • Parallels and Distinctions: Human Rights Adjudications in Europe and Americas
    • Costa Rica and the Inter-American Court: Linked "not only by conviction, but by action"
    • Engineering a $600,000 Renovation


Chapter Twelve: Multi-Jurisdictional Premises - From Peace to Crimes

"These transnational courts hearken back to the grand town halls of Sienna and Amsterdam, using spacious structures to proclaim and produce authority. The new institutions also forecast the twenty-first-century confusion about what the mandates and powers of courts might be."

The Peace Palace and the International Court of Justice

  • Convening for Peace
  • The Amsterdam Town Hall Redux: "Dutch High-Renaissance Architecture" for the World's Library and Court
    • Competing and Litigating for Building Commissions
    • National Artifacts for the World Court
  • Tribunals to Which No Country Can Be "Bidden"
    • The Misnomer of the Permanent Court of International Adjudication
    • The Small Hall of Justice and the PCA
    • The League of Nations' Permanent Court of International Justice
      • Nationality and Judicial Selection
      • Inaugurating the "World Court" and the Hague Academy for International Law
      • Lawmaking through Advisory Opinions and Contentious Cases
  • The Great Hall of Justice and the United Nations' International Court of Justice
    • Nationality's Continuing Import
    • A Celebratory Iconography
    • Renovations, Modernization, and Expansion: Carnegie's Library at Last
    • A Home for Living Law or a Museum?

Transnational Courts with Specialized Jurisdictions

  • An International Tribunal for the Sea, Seated in Hamburg
    • A "Constitution for the Oceans"
    • Alternatives for International Disputes about the Sea
    • Form before Function
  • International Human Atrocities
    • The International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone
    • Designing for a Future of Crimes: The International Criminal Court
    • Operationalizing a Criminal Court System
    • Occupying Permanent Quarters Rather than Riding Circuit
    • "One site forever": A Timeless Image and Four Security Zones

The Logos of Justice: Budgets, Caseloads, Scales, and Buildings

Chapter Thirteen: From "Rites" to Rights

"As judges performed various of their functions in view of the public, they came to be subjected to judgments by the public about whether they, as embodiments (and in that sense representatives) of the governing powers, were living up to the ideals of the non-arbitrary imposition of authority."

A Triumph of Courts

The Democracy in Adjudication

  • "Hear the Other Side"
  • "Judges as free, impartial, and independent as the lot of humanity will admit"
  • "That justice may not be done in a corner nor in any covert manner"
  • Reflexivity: Transnational Signatures of Justice

Theorizing Openness: From Unruly Crowds to Bentham's "Publicity"

  • Observing and Cabining Authority: The Dissemination of Knowledge through Codification and Publicity
  • The Architecture of Discipline: From "Judge & Co." to the Panopticon

Forming Public Opinion Through Complementary Institutions: An Uncensored Press and a Subsidized Postal System

Developing Public Sphere(s)

Adjudication as a Democratic Practice

  • The Power of Participatory Observers to Divest Authority from Judges to Litigants
  • Public Relations in Courts
  • Dignifying Litigants: Information-Forcing through Participatory Parity

The Press, the Post, and Courts: Venerable Eighteenth-Century Institutions Vulnerable in the Twenty-First

Chapter Fourteen: Courts - In and Out of Sight, Site, and Cite

Adjudication's Challenges to Democracy

  • Demand and Distress
  • The Data on Privatization: The Vanishing Trial
  • The Methods of Privatization
    • Managerial Judges Settling Cases
    • Unheard Arguments and "Unpublished" Opinions
    • Devolution: Administrative Agencies as Courts
    • Outsourcing through Mandatory Private Arbitration

Regulatory Options: Public Access to Alternative Dispute Resolution

Multi-Jurisdictional Premises (Again)

  • Tracking, Managing, and Obliging Mediation: Lord Woolf's Reforms in England and Wales
  • Outsourcing to Tribunals
  • Competing for Transnational Arbitration
  • Mediation under the Director of the European Union

Transnational Procedural Shifts

The Continuum on Which Guantanamo Bay Sits

  • The Appointing Authority's Adjudicatory Discretion
  • Court-Like, Court-Lite: "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom"

Foucault's Footsteps

Chapter Fifteen: An Iconography for Democratic Adjudication

Transitional and Transnational Idioms

Symbolic Courts with Facades of Glass

  • Opaque Transparency
  • The Politics of Glass
  • Zones of Authority

Replenishing the Visual Vocabulary

  • An Interdependent Collective: The Cardinal Four of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude
  • The Burdens of Judging: The Nails of a Nkisi Figure

Facing Justice's Injustice

  • Nelson Mandela's Jail as South Africa's Constitutional Court
    • Aiming to Capture the Humanity of Social Interdependence
    • Prison Vistas of Barbed Wire
    • Splashes of Color and References to Oppression
    • The Challenge of Crime and Caseloads
  • Visually Recording (in)Justice in Mexico's Supreme Court
    • Mexican Muralists, Orozco, and "Profoundly National" Paintings
    • George Biddle's Redemption from the Horrors of War
    • Cauduro's Vision: Torture, Homicide, and Other Crimes, Unpunished
    • Impunity and Insecurity

Open Tents, Tattered Coats, and the Challenges Entailed in Democratic Promises of Justice

  • "If performed in the open air":  The Federal Court of Australia's Ruling on the Ngaanyatjarra Land Claims
  • Terra nullius and the Native Title Act
  • Commemorating Power, Witnessing Compromise
  • An Icon of Free Legal Services in Minnesota
    • More Courthouses than Counties
    • A Jacket, Worn

Facets of Judgment

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