The Highest Court In the Land – Washington, D.C. - Atlas Obscura

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The Highest Court In the Land

There just so happens to be a court even higher than the U.S Supreme Court: a basketball court in the building itself. 


The U.S. Supreme Court has always been known as the “Highest Court of the Land,” but there’s one more court that sits even above the Supreme Court, literally—a basketball court.

Aptly named “The Highest Court in the Land”, the U.S Supreme Court’s basketball court sits on the fifth floor of the United States Supreme Court Building, which is much higher than the actual courtroom, which is located on the fourth floor.

The court was once a spare room to house journals, but sometime in the 1940s, it was converted into a workout area for courthouse workers. Wooden backboards and baskets were installed later, which led to the court’s current use as a basketball court used by clerks, off-duty police officers, and other supreme court employees.

A few notable names that have played in the smaller-than-regulation-sized court aren’t NBA stars, but Supreme Court Justices, such as Byron White and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Sandra Day O’Connor also used the gym, but for women-only yoga classes, not b-ball. While not all employees are spry enough for basketball, many of them do use the full service gym and weight room, adjacent to the basketball court on the fourth floor. A few of the current justices themselves are known to lift weights during the day, as well!

A sign at the court’s entrance tells would-be players to make sure that they aren’t playing during a court day, and not to assume court is not in session. If there is a disturbance during court, a court justice would send a Marshal’s Aide upstairs to kindly remind players of the rules on court days. No one wants to be on the record for disrupting court functions.

Unfortunately, the Highest Court is not open to the public. However, if you listen close enough while in the courtroom, you just might hear the squeaking of shoes and the dribble of a basketball.

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