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Welcome to the restored 1902 Supreme Court chambers. About a hundred years ago, this room was alive with activity as the Court prepared to hear oral arguments. Attorneys stood behind their tables, visitors rose from their chairs, the Justices walked to their places at the bench and the Marshall called the session to order.
From 1903 to 1913, they heard cases in this very room and handed down opinions that affected every aspect of life in Florida. Today, this restored Chamber appears as it did when the Supreme Court heard its last case here in 1913. Exhibits interpret important Florida Supreme Court cases, some of the Justices of the Florida Supreme Court and Florida’s legal heritage.
Located on the south end of the first floor, this Supreme Court wing was part of the 1902 Capitol additions. Originally, this room was divided by a rail into a public section, currently used for exhibits, and the Court Chambers, now a restored area. The furnishings are originals that were first purchased for this room in 1902. In 1913, the furniture and the Court moved to its own building. When that building was torn down in 1978, this furniture was saved and eventually restored to this Chamber. Original furnishings include the long oak Justices’ bench, both of the attorneys’ tables, most of the railing and the portraits on the walls. In 1902, the Justices’ bench cost $350.00.
The Supreme Court of Florida is the highest Appeals Court in the State and the Justices decide the cases. For this reason, most Supreme Courts have an odd number of Justices. However, in this Chamber, there are six chairs behind the bench. The reason is that by 1902, there were three Justices on the Florida Supreme Court, but they had a five year backlog of cases. In order to catch up, three more Justices were added in 1902 bringing the total to six and the Court met in two groups of three, each hearing separate cases. Eventually, the Florida Supreme Court settled on seven Justices.