• FALL 2008
  • Educating the Public about the Law



Celebrating the Election on Constitution Day

2008 Constitution Day posterCelebrate Constitution Day on September 17, 2008 as the ABA Division for Public Education focuses on the election amendments and the Electoral College with The Vote Debate it. Discuss it. Understand it.

Take the opportunity before the November election to visit for online features, lesson plans, conversation starters, and the chance to win prizes.

In addition to the Division for Public Education, numerous organizations around the nation are celebrating Constitution Day. In particular, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia will launch its exhibit, Headed to the White House, on September 17, 2008. Headed to the White House will offer role-playing opportunities and will use multimedia and interactive experiences to convey the importance and excitement of America’s greatest democratic rite. Visitors will learn about the electoral process, the issues and candidates in the 2008 race, and the fascinating history of presidential elections.

The Bill of Rights Institute also offers a variety of free resources on their Web site for Constitution Day. Resources include interactive elements such as a flash-animated, critical thinking activity on Article II and the 2008 Presidential Election, as well as a Constitution quiz and a founders quote matching activity. The Web site also features lesson plans for middle school and high-school students, and a Constitutional Convention activity that allows students to travel through time to converse with the founders and report on the convention as if James Madison's notes have gone missing.

Headed to the White House will run through the inauguration of our next president on January 20, 2009. Visit for more information. The Vote Debate it. Discuss it. Understand it. resources, materials, and interactive features is available at and the Bill of Rights Institute features can be found at


Back to Top



Participate in the National Online Youth Summit

The National Online Youth Summit (NOYS) offers high school students the chance to study, research, analyze, and discuss an issue online with students around the country.

The theme for the 2009 NOYS, Up in Arms: Understanding the Second Amendment Debate, reflects on the contentious nature of the Second Amendment and allows today’s youth to delve deeper into the debate.

During the summit, students will have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Second Amendment as well as engage in a vigorous debate about the many issues related to the right to bear arms. Through summit participation, students will:

Two girls looking at computer screen.
  • analyze and evaluate key legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and public policies;
  • articulate informed opinions about policy options;
  • engage in civil discussion by participating in the online discussion;
  • pose questions to legal experts; and
  • create a research-based final project.

This no-cost interdisciplinary program offered by the ABA Division for Public Education is available to high school students and teachers around the country. 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.

Registration is now open for this FREE program. Visit the National Online Youth Summit Web site to apply and for more details. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Rina Shah at (312) 988-5720 or


Back to Top



Law-Related Education Conference 2009

The ABA Division for Public Education is sponsoring the 26th Law-Related Education Leadership Conference in Chicago, October 1-3, 2009.

The conference theme is Building a Better Tomorrow: Youth, Citizenship, and Civic Engagement, with session tracks focusing on juvenile justice, youth rights, civic education, and the future of law-related education in today’s ever-changing society. Anyone with an interest in law-related education is welcome to attend, including judges, attorneys, politicians, teachers, or professors. Conference details and registration will be available in the coming months, so stay tuned! If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Tiffany Willey, (312) 988-5739 or


Back to Top



Law Day 2009 Theme Announced

The Law Day 2009 theme has been unveiled. A Legacy of Liberty: Celebrating Lincoln’s Bicentennial will be the ABA’s 51st Law Day theme.

In 2009 we will mark the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, regarded by many as our nation’s greatest and most eloquent president. Lincoln, who devoted much of his adult life to the practice of law, was the quintessential American lawyer-president. His background in the law informed both his actions and his oratory.

In his Gettysburg Address of 1863, Lincoln articulated his vision of American constitutional union, to be forged in the crucible of a “great civil war” and tested by the shared anguish of national sacrifice. For Lincoln, this vision begins—fourscore and seven years before—with the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration marks the origins of “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Do the animating principles of which Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg still represent “unfinished work”? What is the role of law in fulfilling the promises of the Declaration of Independence? For Law Day 2009, we encourage efforts nationwide to commemorate Lincoln by exploring this rich and resonant theme— A Legacy of Liberty.

Visit in the coming months for updates or to join the Law Day listserv.


Back to Top



On The Docket: The Legal and Media Worlds Look at the Supreme Court ’08 Term

This panel discussion, held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on September 25, 4-5:30 p.m, will focus on the upcoming Supreme Court docket from the point of view of leading Court journalists and experts.

Speakers include Dahlia Lithwick of, the New York Times’ Adam Liptak, Russell Wheeler from the Brookings Institution, and Thomas C. Goldstein, co-head of the Supreme Court practice group at Akin Gump and the driving force behind SCOTUSblog, one of the nation’s leading legal blogs.

Admission is free but you must register at this Web site.


Back to Top



History Teachers Go Back to School for Legal Lessons

The American Bar Association and the Federal Judicial Center hosted a select group of 19 teachers from 13 states the week of June 22, 2008, for the Federal Trials and Great Debates in U.S. History Summer Teacher Institute . The institute is a unique, hands-on educational program on the federal judiciary. Held at the Federal Judicial Center’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., the institute featured presentations and discussions with leading historians and federal judges as well as curriculum planning work on ideas to incorporate the cases studied into U.S. history and government classes.

ABA president-elect, Tommy Wells, and Carolyn Lamm, president-elect nominee, listen to student responses during the dialogue at the Duke Ellington School for Arts.

Summer Teacher Institute teachers pose with
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court.

"The Summer Teacher Institute is one of a kind,” said the American Bar Association’s James Landman, who leads the program with Bruce Ragsdale, director of the Federal Judicial Center’s judicial history office. “The innovative program blends intensive study of landmark cases with visits to the courtrooms where many of our nation’s most important cases have been decided.” This year’s summer institute focused on three landmark federal trials:

  • The Aaron Burr Treason Trial, a case that decided whether former U.S. Vice President Burr was guilty of treason for conspiring to steal Louisiana Purchase lands away from the United States.
  • In re Debs and the Pullman Strike , a case focusing on the national strike that paralyzed the country's transportation system.
  • The Trial of the Chicago Seven, a case involving seven defendants tried for inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, often called one of the most unusual courtroom spectacles in American history.

“The institute focuses on the impact of court decisions on citizens' lives so they may better understand how the judicial branch fits within our constitutional system of government," said Ragsdale.

A highlight of the institute was a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the teachers attended a decision session and then met with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg told the story of Belva Lockwood, who in 1879 became the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court Bar. She also answered teachers’ questions about the Court and its procedures. Teachers also visited the U.S. federal courthouse in D.C., where they met with Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Judge Judith Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Information on next year’s institute, including application materials, will be available at the ABA Division for Public Education’s Web site in October.


Back to Top



Gavel Awards Recognize Those in Media and the Arts

Silver Gavel Award winners Jody Sheff (r), and Thomas Lennon

Documentary Silver Gavel Award winners
Jody Sheff, Executive Producer, and Thomas Lennon, Director, of “The Supreme Court”

The 51st Annual Silver Gavel Awards presentation took place on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. ABA President William H. Neukom presented awards for the following entries: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (Book Category), "Lawless Lands: The Crisis in Indian Country" (Newspaper Category), "The Supreme Court," (Documentary Category), and "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" (Television Program Category).

Featured guest speaker, Howard Fineman, Senior Washington Correspondent, Newsweek magazine and MSNBC Political Analyst, introduced the presentation honoring media and the arts for furthering public understanding of law.

The Gavel Awards seek to recognize entries reaching the public across a wide range of communities and audiences. The "public" includes, but is not limited to, people in their various roles as consumers, as students of all ages (including young people and adults), and as citizens of a law-based democratic society. For more information, visit the Silver Gavel Awards' Web site.


Back to Top



Law Matters, the news source for the law-related education (LRE) community

To subscribe: To subscribe to Law Matters, use this online order form.
To unsubscribe: Reply to this message from your e-mail address with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.
Change of Address: Send an e-mail to to inform us about new e-mail addresses.
Assure continued delivery: Please add to your address book.
Comments, questions, tips: Send a message to

Law Matters, which reports on developments, ideas, programs, and resources in the field of public education about the law, is disseminated three times yearly (fall, winter, spring) by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Public Education.

Chair, Dwight L. Smith
Director, Division for Public Education, Mabel C. McKinney-Browning
Editor, Law Matters, Colleen Danz

The views expressed in this e-newsletter are those of the editors and have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association or the Standing Committee on Public Education.

The American Bar Association is a not-for-profit organization.

Copyright ©2008 American Bar Association




Publications & Resources

Insights Focuses on the Environment and the Election

The Rule of Law: A National Town Hall Meeting Video

New Edition—ABA’s Complete Personal Legal Guide

Online Game Empowers Americans to Manage the Federal Budget

It’s all About the Vote—Election Day Web Site

Book Review: American Juries: The Verdict





Supreme Court Update

The 2007-2008 Supreme Court term was perhaps most remarkable for the varying and unexpected coalitions of justices that decided the most controversial cases.   More...


Legislative Update

As the 2008 presidential election nears, LawMatters is taking a closer look at the education plans of the two principal candidates, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL).   More...




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

National LRE and Youth-Serving Resources



ABA Initiatives

ABA Resources

Division Calendar

Youth Courts