• FALL 2007
  • Educating the Public about the Law


Programs & Activities

Division To Host Keynote by Justice O’Connor at NCSS Conference

This year, the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference, “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges,” will take place in San Diego, November 30 to December 2. During the conference, the Division will host a keynote address by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor, who is a longtime advocate for civic education, said during an interview one year ago with the Associated Press, “we may not neglect government and civics and American history if we’re going to maintain ourselves as a nation.” She will be introduced at the conference by ABA Director of Public Education Mabel McKinney-Browning.

Division staff will present in two sessions. Program Manager Michelle Parrini and Division consultant John Ryan will present “Religious Freedom in the United States and Around the Globe.” This session will offer a comparative perspective on the legal framework and legal culture of the United States and other countries/regions of the world by focusing on the issue of religious freedom; explore the different degrees of separation and connection between church and state in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia; highlight patterns of religious discrimination, violence, and persecution in selected countries that human rights groups have targeted for maximum attention and concern; and highlight the Division’s magazine for teachers, Insights on Law and Society.

Assocation Director of the ABA Division for Public Education Jim Landman and Bruce Ragsdale, Director of the Federal Judicial History Office of the Federal Judicial Center, will lead a workshop titled “Federal Trials and Great Debates: The Chinese Exclusion Acts.” The workshop will highlight the historic role of U.S. federal courts as a forum for the assertion of individual rights, explore principles of judicial independence and the rule of law within the context of federal Chinese Exclusion Act litigation, and demonstrate how members of an ethnic minority group used the law to advance their individual and collective interests. It will draw upon outcomes from the 2007 Summer Teacher Institute, co-sponsored by the Division and the Federal Judicial Center.

The Division will also be staffing a booth in the conference’s exhibition center.


National Online Youth Summit

The 2008 National Online Youth Summit (NOYS) will focus on environmental law and public policy. Students will learn about grassroots and government efforts to create a national environmental policy, current environmental laws, and some of the political and social responses to resource management and environmental change over time. Students will analyze key legislation and Supreme Court decisions dealing with the environment, focusing on global warming in particular, as well as the role of the executive branch in administering environmental laws. Through their participation in NOYS, students will formulate informed opinions about national and international environmental policies. They also will be able to engage in and evaluate ongoing policy debates about the current economic and social impact of managing environmental change.

NOYS is the Division’s national program for high school students and teachers to advance student knowledge and skills (critical thinking, civic discussion, reading, writing, research, problem-solving, self-direction, cooperation, and information literacy). Students study, research, and analyze an issue and discuss it with other students around the country in online message boards. The summit curriculum, objectives, and goals are adaptable and allow teachers to create an exemplary project-based learning experience tailored to their students and relevant learning standards.

Details and application materials will soon be posted on the NOYS Web site. Meanwhile, direct inquiries to Michelle Parrini at (312) 988-5735 or e-mail


Summer Institute for Teachers logo


Federal Trials and Great Debates in U.S. History
Washington, D.C.
June 22–27, 2008

Co-sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center and American Bar Association Division for Public Education

About the Institute
Designed especially for teachers of U.S. History, the Federal Trials and Great Debates Summer Institute deepens participants’ knowledge of the federal judiciary and of the role the federal courts have played in key public controversies that have defined our constitutional and other legal rights.

The institute provides secondary school educators with the training and resources they need to engage students in the history of these landmark federal trials:

  • The Aaron Burr Treason Trial
  • In re Debs and the Pullman Strike
  • The Trial of the Chicago Seven

Participants will work closely throughout the institute with leading historians, federal judges, and curriculum consultants.

How to Apply
Application materials are available on the ABA Summer Institute for Teachers Web site. Completed applications must be submitted by March 3, 2008, and include:

  • A completed application form
  • A current resume
  • A one-page statement describing the reasons why you wish to attend the institute

Participation will be limited to 20 teachers. Travel, lodging, and meal expenses will be reimbursed to institute participants according to U.S. government per diem rates. For further information, please contact Jim Landman at (312) 988-5737.



rule of law logoFifty years ago President Eisenhower proclaimed the first Law Day a "day of national dedication to the principle of government under law." Celebrate this enduring principle during the 50th anniversary of Law Day on May 1, 2008 with the theme, The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity.

Many people do not make the connection between the rule of law and their daily lives—their safety, jobs, health, education, and infrastructure. Advancing the rule of law helps achieve an array of public benefits. We all have a stake in the rule of law, and we all can do our part to strengthen it.

The rule of law refers to a system of self-government with a strong and accessible legal process. It features a system based on fair, publicized, broadly understood and stable laws, and diverse, competent, and independent lawyers and judges. This foundation is essential to foster sustainable communities of opportunity and equity. Visit often over the next few months for updates and additional resources to assist you in your Law Day 2008 planning, and start exploring the role the rule of law has in your personal and professional life today.


Sen. Patrick Leahy Keynotes 2007 Silver Gavel Award Ceremony

ABA President Karen Mathis presented the 2007 Silver Gavel Awards at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2007, before an audience of 175 attendees. Featured speaker Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke eloquently and passionately about the importance of a free press in helping to sustain the rule of law.

Senator Leahy cited his own family background, as the son of a printer and newspaper publisher in his home state of Vermont, to underscore his appreciation for the vital role the media plays to protect freedoms. He also praised the contributions of the Silver Gavel Award honorees, including Boston Globe writer Charlie Savage and Joseph Margulies, author of Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power .

ABA Executive Director Hank White made welcoming remarks at the event. This year marked the 50th annual Silver Gavel Awards competition. In 1958, ABA President Charles S. Rhyne presented the first Silver Gavel Awards “to recognize outstanding contributions to public information and understanding of the roles of law and courts in our society.” That year Sidney Lumet’s classic jury room drama Twelve Angry Men became the first film to win a Silver Gavel Award.

Today, the Silver Gavel Awards annually recognize exemplary media efforts to foster the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system. Eligible categories are newspapers, magazines, books, theater, television, radio, film/video, and new media. Entries are judged by the Standing Committee on Gavel Awards, which is a part of the ABA Division for Public Education.

Six Silver Gavels were presented in 2007 for Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power (Joseph Margulies, Author/Simon & Schuster); “Nobody’s Hero” (5280: Denver’s City Magazine); (King County Bar Association and 19 co-sponsors); “Signing Statements” ( Boston Globe, Charlie Savage, Writer); “Judge Vows to Free Inmates Held Since Katrina” (National Public Radio); and The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till (Court TV and Till Freedom Come Productions).

Also selected were 5 Honorable Mentions: The Tyrannicide Brief  (Geoffrey Robertson, Author/Pantheon Books); Conflicts on the Bench (Center for Investigative Reporting and; “Debtors’ Hell” ( Boston Globe); “Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice (San Jose Mercury News); and “Koppel on Discovery: The Price of Security” (Discovery Networks, U.S.).



 The Division held its 25th National Law-Related Education (LRE) Leadership Conference, September 6–8, 2007, at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference theme, “Youth, Education & Law: Current Issues, New Directions,” directed participants’ focus on LRE, civic engagement, and public policy as they relate to empowering, protecting, and preparing young people for effective citizenship in our democratic society.

During the conference, the Isidore Starr Award for Excellence in Law-Related Education was presented to Jan L. Miller (pictured, left), who is the director of law-related education at the State Bar of Texas. Ms. Miller also serves as Executive Director of Law Focused Education, Inc., a nonprofit organization overseeing grant applications for teacher training and development of materials. Other highlights included a special tribute to Todd Clark, who announced plans to retire from his role as executive director of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, as well as a surprise performance by all 85 members of the nationally known McDonough #35 High School Marching Band.

Saturday Volunteer ActivityOn the last day of the conference, participants focused on the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. In the morning, a moderated panel discussion considered issues related to “Youth, Education & Law—Post-Katrina.” During the afternoon, more than 50 participants volunteered for a community service-learning project involving cleanup and gardening in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood, which was organized by the Beacon of Hope Resource Center. Afterward, they took a guided bus tour of the devastated areas that remain throughout the city two years after Katrina, including the city’s now famed lower 9th Ward.

The National LRE Leadership Conference was produced with funding support from the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. Planning support was provided by the Louisiana Center for Law and Civic Education and the Youth for Justice National LRE Consortium.

Review the conference agenda and photo gallery here.




“Criminal Justice & the Constitution”

New Guide on Teaching Gun Control,
2nd Amendment

"Law & Government Regulation"

“Talking Justice” Online Discussion Forum

“Why We’ll Win”





The Judicial Branch

A Supreme Court case could have an immediate impact on schools and parents with a special needs students and programs. More...


The Legislative Branch

State Children’s Health Insurance Program: “A Stand Off—Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Act”. More...


The Executive Branch

College Cost Reduction Access Act of 2007, NCLB – Early Results and A Fight for Reauthorization. More...




Research and Development in Law, Justice, Education, and Youth

National LRE and Youth-Serving Resources



ABA Initiatives

Division Calendar