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October 12, 2020

ABA Law Day 2019 Recap

Since 1958, every May 1st our nation has celebrated Law Day to remember our commitment to the rule of law.

Law Day provides an opportunity to understand how the law and legal process protect our liberty, strive to achieve justice, and contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share.

This year, the ABA theme for Law Day was “free speech, free press, free society”. The association focused on this theme at a variety of in-person and online events that included the release of the ABA’s Survey of Civic Literacy, a new national survey measuring the public’s knowledge of American history and government, as well as our constitutional rights; the Leon Jaworski Public Program; an interview with the ABA president, Bob Carlson, and the law librarian of Congress; a student dialogue at a local high school including CNN correspondent Jim Acosta; and more.

This year for the first time, the ABA Governmental Affairs Office (GAO) joined Law Day activities by coordinating several online campaigns to give ABA members and the legal community at large the chance to weigh in on the issues currently moving in Congress. GAO reached out directly to members of Congress urging them to post messages of support for Law Day and the rule of law. In total, over 3,000 individual messages were posted, with more than 30 members of Congress joining the conversation. GAO also used Law Day to remind ABA members to help us preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and funding for the Legal Services Corporation by visiting the GAO website to send messages directly to their members of Congress using email and social media.

The public release of the ABA Survey of Civic Literacy was a definite highlight of the day.  Using questions adapted from the U.S. citizenship test, this survey assessed the American public’s knowledge of basic civic information, concepts, and constitutional protections. This nationally representative poll also examined the public’s feelings about the First Amendment and how it applies to everyday situations. While the poll showed a majority of the public knows basic facts about the U.S. structure of government and the U.S. Constitution, it also revealed gaps in understanding about who has rights and responsibilities under the law in the United States. For example, less than half of those interviewed knew that only U.S. citizens can be elected to federal office or understood who is responsible for paying taxes in the states.

The poll also showed that the public strongly supports freedom of speech in the United States, with some takeaways including:

1.       80% of the public agrees that individuals and organizations should have the right to request government records and information.

2.       81% of the public agrees that people should be able to publicly criticize the U.S. President or any other government leader.

3.       88% of respondents correctly said that under the First Amendment the government does not have the right to review what journalists write before it is published.

The ABA hopes to use information gleaned from the survey to tailor future educational events on the gaps identified. Want to know more about the results of this survey? Visit the ABA Survey on Civic Literacy fact page. 

For more information on ABA Law Day click here