The core of Moody County’s justice system may be one of the most ornate rooms in the area.
Inside the courtroom of the Moody County Courthouse, the room has wooden benches and doors, golden moldings around the ceiling, marble windowsills, century-old paintings and a coffered ceiling centered with an ornate chandelier.
Older courthouses across the state are a treasurer, the likes of which a county could never afford to build these days, said Circuit Judge Patrick Pardy, who hears the county’s cases as part of the third circuit but also has filled in on the bench in several other counties, seeing the insides of their courtrooms.
“You’ve got the marble. You’ve got the pillars. They’re beautifully built and we’re very lucky to have them,” he said of the buildings.
The only modern drawback is the courtrooms aren’t easy to wire for technology and the rooms are difficult to use in a period that calls for social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pardy said.
Inside the Moody County Courthouse, which was built starting in July of 1914, the public can enter the third-floor courtroom through one of two immense sets of wooden doors. At the time it was built, the entire courthouse building was budgeted to cost $88,053.40.
Former Moody County Judge Lyle Cheever researched some of the history of the paintings in the courtroom and outside of its doors in the domed area, which was printed in the Moody County Enterprise in 1987. The artist was E. Soderberg from the O.J. Oyen Studio, an interior design firm which was headquartered out of LaCrosse, Wisc., and well-known in the upper Midwest. Soderberg was a Swedish immigrant who had attended school in Copenhagen and decorated the Swedish king’s palace in Uppsala.
Oyen was a Norwegian immigrant who attended the Art Institute in Chicago after his family settled in Madison, Wisc. The two had similar techniques, and Soderberg was described as one of Oyen’s most significant artisans.
Soderberg’s four arched paintings anchor the rotunda with themes of agriculture, liberty, justice and wisdom. He also painted the work above the judge’s bench.
The courtroom itself represents the people -- the institution of justice -- which is one reason judges wear black robes in order to blend in, Pardy said. The courtroom isn’t about the judge but is about justice.
While he’s working, Party isn’t likely to let his mind get lost in the 22 golden lion heads that surround the ceiling or the paintings that include serpent tails.
“Once I’m on the bench, I’m generally not thinking about the beauty but the matter that’s being presented to me and trying to apply the law fairly to represent everybody’s rights and due process,” he said.