Washington, DC was the center of the National Law Day 2012 events – a press conference, Leon Jaworski Public Program and Close Up Teachers Luncheon. View photos from the events.

On May 1, a press event was held at the Newseum and included prominent speakers and representatives from across the political and economic spectrum. James C. Duff, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Freedom Forum and Chief Executive Officer of the Newseum and Diversity Institute, welcomed the attendees and opened the discussion. Speakers at the press conference included: Eric T. Washington, Chief Judge, District of Columbia Court of Appeals and President of the Conference of Chief Justices; Theodore B. Olson, Co-Chair, ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System; Elaine R. Jones, President and Director-Counsel Emeritus, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.; Lisa Rickard, Executive Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform; and Linda Lipsen, Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Justice. The speakers delivered eloquent remarks with conviction about the court funding crisis.

The press conference on court funding was also attended by agencies such as the Justice at Stake Campaign, National Conference on Women’s Bar Associations, National Center for State Courts, League of Women Voters, American Constitution Society, National Bar Association, and the National LGBT Bar Association. Representatives from these various organizations gave statements on the severity of adequate court funding, which supported the Law Day 2012 theme.

Mary C. McQueen, President of the National Center for State Courts said that “courts have taken dramatic steps to cut waste and increase efficiency, even as case loads have increased and funding has decreased. Further cuts will undermine the ability of the courts to ensure access to justice and uphold fundamental rights. Law Day is an appropriate time for all Americans to recognize and to appreciate that the foundation of this country is the rule of law and our courts are its protector.” The National President of the League of Women Voters, Elisabeth MacNamara stated that “while these are difficult economic times, the failure to fund the justice system is deleterious to American democracy…underfunding the judicial system adds to an already battered public trust. It is understandable during tight economies to cut back wherever possible, but underfunding justice is a risk we simply should not be willing to take.”

Over twenty high school teachers were present at the press conference to also pose thought provoking questions. With such a wealth of experience and prominent officials engaged at the press conference and statistics mounting about funding inadequacies, it can only be hoped that the individuals were able to be agents of change and begin to positively affect the ongoing court funding dilemma. 

The 11th Annual Leon Jaworski Public Program on the role of the law in American culture, held in conjunction with Law Day, focused on “The Courts and Constitutional Democracy in America.” The symposium took place the evening of May 1, in the Flom Auditorium at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and was broadcast live on CSPAN. Managing Editor and Host, dialogue, John Milewski served as the moderator. The notable panelists included Christine Durham, Justice, Utah Supreme Court; Mickey Edwards, Vice President, The Aspen Institute and Lecturer in Public and International Affairs; Linda Greenhouse, Senior Research Scholar in Law and Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence, Yale Law School; Sherrilyn Ifill, Professor of Law, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law; and Jeffrey Rosen, Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School.

The previous day on April 30, 2012, the 15th Annual Luncheon Seminar for Close Up Teachers was held at the National Press Club, also in Washington, DC. The luncheon was attended by over 50 high school teachers from around the nation and 13 finalists (and their families) for the Young Lawyers Division Law Day 2012 Video Contest. The contest encouraged high school students to submit videos depicting their view of the Law Day 2012 theme “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.” Michael G. Bergmann, Chair, Young Lawyers Division, presented the winner Jasper Lown, a student from Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, Illinois, with the 2012 Law Day Video Contest plaque. Check out the winning video for a shinning example of how the country’s youth interpret the rule of law and how it impacts their lives.