Paths Crossed: Southern District Courthouse II

CORRECTION at the bottom where it belongs…

As I listen to the news about the Michael Cohen case, I see Cohen walking into the federal courthouse where his case is being heard.

There are two Southern District courthouses in Lower Manhattan. The first, the old one, a landmark building at Foley Square — formally called Thurgood Marshall Courthouse — is on Centre Street, and looks like this:

(I like that sunlit upper story, don’t you? Looks like a halo. A rectangular halo.)

That’s my favorite federal courthouse downtown. Spent a bit of time there as a paralegal. The ceilings are Italian Renaissance; the full court bench chamber is awesome.

But that’s not the courthouse where Michael Cohen’s case is being heard. That one, formally known as The Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse, is just behind and to the side of the Marshall Courthouse, at 500 Pearl Street. It was opened in the year 2000 because the Southern District court load was spilling out of the Marshall Courthouse. Crammed, because we are a nation under the rule of law which means lots of cases in courts. More space was needed.

Here’s what the more-space Moynihan Courthouse looks like — although you can’t get a full view of the front because there is no substantial plaza in front of it, i.e., no way to back up far enough to get a full vertical shot.

(The top of this building has pussy cat ears.)

Most lawyers I knew did not like the architecture of this building. And compared to the Marshall Courthouse, designed by Cass Gilbert, it isn’t grand. Inside there is too much brassy trim. But I liked it, thought it looked like a Gotham City building, a pass at neo-deco, sort of witty and cartoony. It made me smile.

Let’s walk in through those doors you see up there. We’re in, facing some serious barriers to full entry but the first thing to grab your eyes is a gigantically tall dark bronze-y statue representing Justice:

Except very much bigger. (I’m no good at re-sizing photos. Indeed, it took me so much damn time figuring out how to copy these photos and how to stick them somewhere useful, never mind make them bigger or smaller.)

What you can’t see in this picture is that Ms. Justice is standing on one foot and is leaning forward. So, once you get through the x-ray machines, you’re standing underneath this massive bronze hunk which is threatening to collapse on you and crush you into the marble floor.

I don’t think this is the message about Justice such a statue should convey. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyhow, you can now imagine Michael Cohen entering the courthouse and running into a direct threat from Ms. Justice. I wonder what he thinks about that.

CORRECTION: Last night, when I was watching the TV footage of Cohen walking into the courthouse, I had an Oops moment. Cohen was going in the side door on Worth Street, not the one just off Pearl. From that entrance he wouldn’t have encountered Ms. Justice.


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