Appellate Division Courthouse

The statues on top of the courthouse represent the world’s most important lawgivers. But one is missing…

Location: 27 Madison Ave

Built: 1896-1899

Architect: James Brown Lord

The most distinct feature of the stately courthouse is that it is embellished with about 30 statues designed by the sixteen most esteemed sculptors of the day.

Around the rooftop are the statues of the world’s ten most important lawgivers. Confucius and Moses are facing Madison Ave, with Peace between them. Lined up from West to East on 25th street are Zoroaster, Alfred the Great, Lycurgus, Solon, Louis IX, Manu, Justinian, and the empty spot, which once belonged to Mohammed.

Mohammed used to occupy the prime spot over the corner of 25th Street and Madison Ave. In 1953, during restoration and cleaning, it was discovered that the statue belonged to the prophet. Somehow the fact that Islamic Law strictly forbids the depiction of people was completely overlooked in the 19th century. Horrified, representatives from Pakistan, Egypt, and Indonesia petitioned the State Department to destroy the statue of Mohammed rather than restore it.

It was indeed removed and all other lawgivers had to move up a spot. One empty pedestal still remains…

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court was designed to look like an 18th-century English country villa in accordance with the principles of the City Beautiful movement which maintained that public architecture should not just be useful but also beautiful.

Two statues flanking the entrance are Wisdom and Force. Wisdom proclaims “Every law not based on WISDOM is a menace to the state” and Force says “We must not use FORCE till just laws are defied.

Another powerful inscription lies on the Madison Ave side of the building. It says “Indifference to injustice is the gate to hell.” It is part of small but chilling Holocaust memorial which depicts a map of the Auschwitz concentration camp with specific locations of the Torture Chamber and Commandant’s house.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is one of the four intermediate appellate courts in the State. As a matter of right, appeals are taken to the Appellate Division in both civil and criminal cases.

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