May 1st is Law Day, a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms that Americans enjoy. The day also provides an opportunity to recognize the role of courts and in our democracy and the importance of jury service. In 1957, Charles S. Rhyne, President of the American Bar Association lobbied for a day to celebrate our legal system. President Dwight Eisenhower established by proclamation the first Law Day in 1958 to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day, which is subsequently codified (U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 113). Every president since then has issued a Law Day proclamation on May 1 to celebrate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.
Law Day programs are designed to help people understand how the law keeps us free and how our legal system strives to achieve justice. These programs are conducted by various groups including local bar associations, courts, law libraries and schools. For example, the Library of Congress will be holding a panel discussion on the movement for civil and human rights in America. Carrie Johnson, Justice Correspondent for National Public Radio will be moderating the discussion.
This year’s theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All” provides an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, handwritten by Abraham Lincoln to end slavery in the United States and promote the idea of freedom and equality for all men. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Civil Rights Movement brought progress in eliminating discrimination based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability and sexual orientation. This year’s Law Day provides an opportunity to focus on the work that still needs to be done to ensure equality for all.
- American Bar Association. (2013). Law Day 2013. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/law_day_2013.html
- Cali, J. (2013, April 1). Law Day Program Features U.S. Civil and Human Rights. Retrieved from http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2013/04/law-day-program-features-u-s-civil-and-human-rights/