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About Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex

The New Jersey Supreme Court sits in the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton. The eight-story, steel and aluminum structure was completed and opened by then - Gov. Brendan T. Byrne in January 1982.

The 1.2 million-square-foot complex also houses the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Department of Law and Public Safety and the Public Defender.

The building is named for the only person in New Jersey history to serve as governor and chief justice. Hughes, who died in December 1992 at the age of 83, was governor of New Jersey from 1962 to 1970 and served as chief justice from 1973 to 1979.

From 1929 until 1982, the Supreme Court sat a short distance away in the Statehouse Annex, where standing lawyers looked down on seated justices in a space known for its poor lighting and acoustics. The old courtroom is now a meeting room for legislative committees.

Planning for the justice complex began in 1977 and construction began the following year.

The main portion of the building forms a "V" around a center cube that holds the Supreme Court courtroom, two additional courtrooms and office/conference space. Indoor bridges connect the offices on the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth floors. The main entrance to the building leads into the lobby/atrium, which is open through 10 stories to a skylight on the roof.

Arguments in the new Supreme Court courtroom were first held on March 21, 1983. The courtroom was formally dedicated on April 15, 1983 during a ceremony attended by about 90 federal and state court judges and officials, executive branch officials, members of the Legislature, and representatives of the bar, contractors, and state employee unions.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., a former New Jersey trial court judge who also sat on the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1952 until 1956, then-New Jersey Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz, and then - Gov. Thomas H. Kean spoke. Brennan and Hughes were seated at the bench with members of the Supreme Court.

The 10,800-square-foot Supreme Court courtroom features a 21-foot tall ceiling, sloping to 18 feet in the center, a 22.5-foot high skylight, polished walls fashioned from Vermont marble and etched glass created by glass artist Benoit Gilsoul.

The bench, counsel's tables and podium were crafted from African mahogany veneer. There are two sets of bookcases, each seven feet tall, on either side behind the bench, and there are 80 upholstered theater-style chairs in curved rows on either side of the main entrance.

Perhaps some of the most interesting characteristics of the justice complex are its artwork, specifically the life-size bronze sculptures by New Jersey native J. Seward Johnson, a scion of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical conglomerate.

Three works by sculptor Beverly Pepper, "Mute Metaphor," "Symbiotic Marker," and "Primary Presence," are located in the lobby of the justice complex, and a bust of Brennan is displayed in the glass breezeway between the Supreme Court courtroom and lobby on the eighth floor. The bust, which was sculpted by Jon Robert Bailey, was dedicated on Jan. 30, 2001.

For a full story, written by the building architect, on how and why the R. J. Hughes building was constructed - please visit our R.J. Hughes Architectural page

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