Justice Need Never Be Modest
In fact, I like my Justice swinging-in-the-wind…
No more cover-up of nudes at Justice Dept
Fri June 24, 2005 06:37 PM ET
By Deborah Charles
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The cover-up is over at the U.S. Justice Department.
After more than three years of being blocked by large blue drapes, two Art Deco aluminum statues of semi-nude figures in the building’s Great Hall can be seen again.
The “Spirit of Justice” and the “Majesty of Justice,” which loom over the stage in the Great Hall, were blocked from view by curtains installed by the department in January 2002, when former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in office.
The curtains were quietly removed on Friday after a decision by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden said.
At one end of the stage is a 1930s-era female statue representing the “Spirit of Justice.” Although she wears a toga-style garment, one breast is exposed. At the other end of the stage, a male statue represents the “Majesty of Justice,” and has a cloth draped by his waist.
When they were covered up, officials working for Ashcroft — a devout Christian — said the move to spend about $8,000 for curtains to cover the figures were made for “TV aesthetics.”
“The assistant attorney general for administration, Paul Corts, made a recommendation to remove the drapes from the Great Hall and the attorney general agreed with the recommendation,” Madden said.
The decision to install the curtains sparked a myriad of jokes and Ashcroft became fodder for late-night comedians.
After he took office in February, Gonzales was asked frequently when and if he would remove the drapes. His answer was usually that he had more important issues to deal with than the statues.
Before the curtains were installed, photographers often shot pictures that included the statues in the picture when an attorney general was speaking.
When Ashcroft announced plans to restructure the Justice Department to focus on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks, photographers took pictures showing him with the towering female statue in the background.
The most famous picture of the female statue came in the 1980s, when Attorney General Edwin Meese released the final report of his commission on pornography.