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The Supreme Court avoided disaster when a chunk of marble fell in a courtyard used by the justices

by Chloe Baker
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Supreme Court Marble Incident

Last year, the Supreme Court narrowly averted a potentially catastrophic incident when a substantial chunk of marble, measuring at least two feet in length, plummeted to the ground within an inner courtyard commonly frequented by the justices and their support staff. This alarming occurrence, although unacknowledged by the court in its official capacity, unfolded amidst an already tense atmosphere in the spring of 2022. During this period, the court grappled with threats to its security, while the justices meticulously finalized their momentous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It is worth noting that Justice Elena Kagan and her team of law clerks had occupied the courtyard earlier in the day, as conveyed by reliable sources. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries resulting from the marble’s descent, despite its substantial size, which could have easily inflicted severe harm. Notably, this fragment dwarfed the basketball-sized section that had descended near the court’s main entrance back in 2005.

The precise weight of the fallen marble remains undisclosed; nevertheless, it is established that the Georgia marble employed in the court’s four inner courtyards carries an approximate weight of 170 pounds per cubic foot, according to Polycor, the proprietor of the quarry that supplied the marble.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the court employees shared these details with The Big Big News, adhering to court regulations that generally restrict employees, apart from a select few, from providing statements to the media on the record.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe declined to furnish any particulars regarding the incident or even confirm its occurrence. Notably, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court was closed to the public and the usual media representatives who regularly cover its proceedings at the time.

Each of the four courtyards within the court complex boasts fountains and columns that mirror the architectural elements present on the building’s exterior. These courtyards also feature tables and chairs, providing employees with spaces to dine or work on pleasant days.

The ongoing restoration efforts for the courtyards are expected to incur an expenditure nearing $35 million, as indicated by budget requests submitted to Congress. The court had originally planned these renovations well before the incident with the marble. The restoration work primarily takes place in the evenings, after court staff have concluded their daily duties.

In addition to the marble restoration, the workers are modernizing fountains, plumbing, and electrical systems, some of which date back to the court building’s inauguration in 1935.

In November 2005, a previous incident involving falling marble molding occurred at the court’s entrance, narrowly avoiding injury to visitors waiting to enter the building on a Monday morning. Chief Justice John Roberts humorously referenced this 2005 episode when he addressed Drake University’s law school three years later during a comprehensive renovation of the building, which ultimately amounted to roughly $120 million and concluded in 2011.

Quoting Chief Justice Roberts, “Now, there were a lot of reasons that we had to renovate the building, including the fact that we were literally losing our marbles. The occasional chunk of marble would dislodge and fall from above, threatening to shorten life tenure.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Supreme Court Marble Incident

What was the incident at the Supreme Court involving falling marble?

Last year, a significant piece of marble, measuring at least two feet in length, fell within an inner courtyard of the Supreme Court.

Were there any injuries as a result of the falling marble?

Fortunately, no injuries were reported despite the substantial size of the fallen marble, which could have caused serious harm.

Why did the court employees speak anonymously about the incident?

Court policy typically restricts employees, except for a select few, from speaking to reporters on the record, leading to their decision to provide information anonymously.

Has the Supreme Court officially acknowledged the incident?

No, the Supreme Court has not officially acknowledged the incident, and Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe has declined to provide any details or confirm its occurrence.

What is the estimated cost of the ongoing restoration work for the courtyards?

The restoration work for the courtyards is expected to cost nearly $35 million, according to budget requests submitted to Congress.

When did a similar incident involving falling marble occur at the Supreme Court in the past?

In November 2005, there was a previous incident involving falling marble molding at the entrance to the Supreme Court. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that incident.

What did Chief Justice John Roberts humorously say about the 2005 marble incident?

Chief Justice John Roberts humorously remarked during a speech at Drake University’s law school that they were “literally losing our marbles,” referring to the occasional dislodging of marble, which posed a threat to the court’s life tenure.

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