Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Law Day
By Mercedes Pino
Mercedes Pino is an associate editor of The Affiliate and the Director of Career Services at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens, Florida.
“A free people can assure the blessings of liberty for themselves only if they recognize the necessity that the rule of law shall be supreme and that all . . . shall be equal before the law.”
—President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower, along with then American Bar Association President Charles S. Rhyne, created Law Day. In part, it was created as a counterpoint to May Day, a holiday celebrated in communist countries. In larger part, Law Day was created to celebrate “a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law.” To bring Rhyne’s vision to realization, on February 13, 1958, President Eisenhower proclaimed:
WHEREAS it is fitting that the people of this Nation should remember with pride and vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice and equality under law which our forefathers bequeathed to us; and . . . WHEREAS a day of national dedication to the principle of government under law would afford us an opportunity better to understand and appreciate the manifold virtues of such a government and to focus the attention of the World upon them; NOW, THEREFORE, I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, May 1, 1958 as Law Day–USA. I urge the people of the United States to observe the designated day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, and I especially urge the legal profession, the press, and the radio, television and motion picture industries to promote and to participate in the observance of that date.
Though some organizations celebrate Law Week, May 1 became the official date of Law Day by a joint resolution of Congress in 1968.
Since its inception, Law Day has opened the door for the legal community to engage the public in open discussion about legal issues. Specifically, Law Day has become a great avenue for our youth to gain a better understanding of the legal system as they participate in events spanning various themes and issues. This year’s Law Day theme is “The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity.”
Planning and Ideas
If your bar association is planning a Law Day activity, you may want to take a look at the ABA Law Day Planning Guide. The Guide provides valuable information to assist you with planning/timelines for your event, publicity, community outreach, youth outreach, and resources, as well as examples of the 2007 award winning Law Day activities. The Planning Guide also provides suggestions on fundraising and sponsorship opportunities, which are especially helpful as budgets for local Law Day events range from several-hundred to several-thousand dollars.
To assist in planning your event, the following are a sample of entries received for the 2007 Outstanding Law Day Activities Award. You can tailor these activities to fit this year’s theme and your bar’s needs. For more information about the 2007 Award winner, visit www.abanet.org/publiced/lawday/2008/awards/winners.shtml.
Hudson County State of New Jersey Superior Court
Activity Name : Hudson County Youth Summit
Target Audience : 260 at-risk youth; 50 teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators; and 30 court and committee volunteers.
Activity Summary : The Hudson Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns, in collaboration with the Hudson County Bar Association, hosted a Youth Summit on April 24, 2007, entitled, Empowering Ourselves as Tomorrow’s Leaders: Making Positive Choices to Ensure a Positive Future. About 260, eleven-to-thirteen year olds from Jersey City, West New York, and Union City public schools participated in this highly interactive and inspiring program. As a result of the keynote presentation by actor/psychologist Mykee Fowlin and peer group discussions, the children were empowered and excited about the possibilities for their future. For more information, visit www.njcourtsonline.com.
League of Women Voters
Activity Name : Independence of the Judiciary Program
Target Audience : Designed for middle and high school audiences.
Activity Summary : The program took place in the moot courtroom at the Public Defender’s Office and opened with introductory remarks from members of the judiciary detailing the benefits of an independent judiciary in DUI cases. Following the judges’ remarks, a forty-five minute DUI mock trial was held. The students were divided into separate jury panels to actually decide the case and to discuss how their particular panel reached its verdict.
Leon County Teen Court
Activity Name : Teen Court Law Day Celebration
Target Audience : 150 youth families, teachers, and legal professionals.
Activity Summary : Leon County Teen Court, along with the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida, celebrated Law Day 2007 by focusing on education, youth participation, and volunteer recognition. During the day, with the help of local attorneys and judges, middle school students received a taste of the court process and legal careers, through hands-on activities and question and answer sessions in their classrooms, part of a newly implemented court education program. For more information, visit www.leoncountyfl.gov/teencourt.
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