PHOENIX (AP) _ Hardwood paneling may lend a stately air to a courtroom, but environmental activists are angry that a new state courthouse will be decorated with 47,000 square feet of mahogany from shrinking rain forests.

''Our halls of justice should not be decorated through the death of tropical rain forests,'' Randall Gingrich said as he and other menbers of the Arizona Rainforest Alliance picketed the site Friday.

The building on the Capitol mall will house the Supreme Court as well as most of the Court of Appeals and other court-related agencies.

The blueprints call for use of 32,880 square feet of 3/4 -inch plywood and 14,520 square feet of 1/4 -inch mahogany plywood, according to the demonstrators.

Most mahogany comes from rain forests in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, and there are estimates that about five acres of rain forest disappear every minute to meet U.S. demand for tropical timber. Environmentalists say destruction of the rain forests threatens the natural balance and is detroying the lives of many indigenous tribes.

Chief Justice Frank Gordon Jr. wasn't available Friday, a state holiday, to comment on the issue, and the vice chief justice, Stanley Feldman, didn't return calls to his Phoenix and Tucson homes.

The demonstrators said the government should send a signal by using maple, ash, or other hardwoods cut in the United States.

But Gingrich added, ''I frankly don't think using any kind of hardwood is going to make a better justice system.''