The chief justice of the United States, a daisy in the lapel of his gray suit, rode in one gold-trimmed, horse-drawn carriage here yesterday with the attorney general following in another.
Stretched behind them through the streets of this historic village - a birthplace of the nation's independence - was a procession of the highest-ranking judges from the country's state courts.
The procession symbolized an effort to breathe new life into America's state and local courts, long the stepchild of the nation's judical system.
It marked the opening of the National Center for State Courts, a pet project of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who yesterday repeatedly called for state courts to reassume control over legal disputes that have so often been taken away by the federal courts the past 40 years.
"This unarticulated disparagement of state jurisdiction and state courts is something I categorically reject," the chief justice told a gathering of more than 300 judges, lawyers and community leaders from across the stop country who are meeting here to chart new ways to improve state and local courts.
"The state courts of this country are the basic system, of justice under our system," the chief justice said.
Burger said legislation that would take jurisdiction from the state courts and pass it to the federal courts "must be examined critically."
The chief justice noted that during the past nine years Congress passed 48 new laws that have expanded jurisdiction of federal courts.
Not only did these new laws and the added worked threaten to collapse the federal court system, he said, but they undermine a state's right to settle its problems.
"Many problems of people can be justly and fairly disposed of more swiftly and less expensively in the state courts than in the federal courts," Burger asserted.
Burger yesterday joined in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the dedication of National Center for State Courts' red-bricked headquarters which sits at the edge of Colonial Williamsburg's restored area.
A fife-and-drum corps, dressed in revolutionary costumes, led a parade of courts officials through historic streets once trod by the nation's fore-fathers. As the proccession passed neat clapboard and brick cottages, bewildered tourists snapped photographs and tried to figure out what was going on.
It was seven years and seven days ago that the concept of a National Center for State Courts - which has been called "Burger's dream" - was born during a National Conference on Justice that was also held here.
Burger called the center "the first authentic and authorized voice of the state courts."
Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, who represented President Carter here, said in the keynote address last night that the center's work toward solving problems with the administration of justice has "made us more, not less, aware of the potential for breakdown in our country's capacity to deliver justice to all our citizens.
"I am convinced, as never before, that we must work together, across federal and state lines - to pursue both the immediate and the long-range solutions to the difficulties which continue to afflict the American judical systems," Bell said.
The state and local courts, even though they have lost stature as federal power has expanded, nevertheless handle 95 per cent of the nation's legal business.
The conference is a recognition of need to strenghten and improve operations of the country's state in which the public, according to a new study, has little confidence.
The study, commissioned by the National Center, revealed a starting gap between the low public opinion of the courts and the judges think they are doing.
The conference has been dessigned to force state and local judges to face up to public dissatisfaction with the way the courts are run.