Judicial history on display in Supreme Court Rotunda

1940 Certificate of Appointment Justice Roy Chapman

The Supreme Court Library has a new display in the two glass-front cases in the rotunda that includes books and documents from the Depression and World War II era of Florida history (1927-1945). 

During this period, the expanded state population put tremendous pressure on the state’s judicial resources due to the high crime rates, bankruptcies, and foreclosures caused by the Great Depression. 

The Florida Supreme Court continued to be the only appeals court in the state, hearing more than 1,200 cases every year during this period.  In 1940, a constitutional amendment passed by voters added a seventh justice, who helped resolve a backlog of evenly split 3–3 decisions. 

Personal letter written by Justice Fred Davis

Personal letter written by Justice Fred Davis

The library cares for many original items from this era. A handful of items are now on display in the supreme court rotunda, including:

  • The certificate of appointment of Roy Chapman as the seventh justice of the court in 1940.
  • A personal letter from Justice Fred Davis commenting on the distaste many judges felt at having to run against opponents to be elected or re-elected to the Supreme Court.
  • One of the earliest original photographs of the justices, en banc, from 1936.
  • A Bible kept in the Supreme Court Library from 1905 to 1941 for the use of justices who administered the oath of office to newly-elected governors.
  • A receipt for cleaning supplies that had to be approved by a justice, due to such tight budgets.

Stop by to see these and other treasures of Florida judicial history. The Supreme Court building is open to the public Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., excluding holidays.

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