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Wisconsin State Capitol Supreme Court

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*  Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Room is located on the second floor of the east wing of the State Capitol. Upon entering, visitors will be impressed by its dignified beauty. Such a room is befitting for the Supreme Court for it is here, where the final interpretation of State law is made.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justices and the Fourth District Court of Appeals use the Supreme Court Room for oral arguments. The Supreme Court meets in this room two to three times per month, from September through June. The remainder of the year, the justices work on written cases in their chambers, which are located behind the doors at the front of the room.

In the Supreme Court, no jury or witnesses are present because it is an appeals court. Supreme Court cases consist of two attorneys who argue their client's positions to the justices. Each lawyer has only 30 minutes to explain his/her argument to the justices and answer any questions they might have. After the justices have heard the day's arguments, they discuss each case and then vote on it. Supreme Court Justices do not hear all cases that are appealed to them. Instead, they choose cases that will have the greatest legal impact on the State of Wisconsin. When the Court is in session, the public is welcome to attend. Chairs for spectators are provided in the back of the room.

There are seven justices who sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They are elected to a ten-year term in a non-partisan statewide election. This is the longest term of any elected office in the State. In the event a justice is unable to complete his/her term for any reason, such as death or retirement, the Governor appoints someone to fill that position. Only one justice can be up for election per year and the longest serving justice serves as Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court Room is essentially a square room with dimensions of forty-two feet by forty-three feet by thirty feet high. It is lighted by a 20' 7" x 20' 7" central skylight of low-toned leaded glasswork set in a flat ceiling and is coffered to prevent reverberation. This room has more marble than any other room in the Capitol building. It contains marble from all over the world - France, Germany, Italy, Maryland and Tennessee. The solid mahogany furniture and woodwork are original to the room.

Albert Herter of New York painted the four murals in the Supreme Court Room at a cost of $28,000. These murals illustrate historical events that influenced Wisconsin law. The mural above the door shows Caesar Augustus presiding over the trial of a soldier. The north wall painting shows the protested signing of the Magna Carta by England's King John in 1215. At that time, soldiers forced King John to sign the document. The mural in front of the room illustrates the 1787 signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia - an extremely important event of our nation's history. The fourth painting exemplifies Wisconsin Territorial Law by showing the trial of Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee tribe in 1830. Chief Oshkosh was accused of killing a Pawnee Indian and was brought to trial before federal judge James Duane Doty. It was the first time a jury was used in Wisconsin history. Although the jury found Chief Oshkosh guilty, Judge Doty ruled that the territorial law couldn't be applied because Chief Oshkosh had followed his people's legal system.