Law Day: A Cause for Celebration

Justice, Statue, Lady Justice, by Pixabay user WilliamCho, licensed by Creative Commons

Liberty and Justice for All

For many countries around the world, May 1st (or “May Day”) is one of the biggest holidays of the year. In some countries, it is a time to celebrate spring and warmer, longer days with festival and parades. In other locations, the day historically honors workers’ rights, and is marked with marches and protests.

In the United States, the first day of May is called “Law Day.” This legal holiday was first recognized in 1958 by President Eisenhower. Eisenhower issued a proclamation at the request of Charles Rhyne, president of the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1957, to have a special day honoring the U.S. legal system. In 1961, May 1 was designated as the official date for Law Day by a joint resolution of Congress. Since its enactment, Law Day has been a catalyst for combating racism, segregation, and other domestic issues. It has also honored the role of international law in minimizing conflicts and establishing peace and order worldwide.

Historically, enthusiasm for Law Day has waxed and waned. At its height in 1961, Law Day drew 100,000 celebrations nationwide. Today, citizen participation in the Law Day festivities has declined, but the ABA, legal organizations, and educational institutions continue to honor Law Day. Law Day is not a federal holiday, which means that businesses, schools, stores, and federal offices remain open as scheduled. Traditionally, the U.S. president signs a proclamation on Law Day (posted in the Federal Register) asking federal buildings to display the U.S. flag and asking U.S. citizens to reflect on the role of law and the legal system in shaping our society. The public is invited to celebrate the holiday with ceremonies and events. Popular activities include local bar association events such as luncheons, speeches, and seminars, law-related community outreach activities, and even school lessons on law and its role in society.

In the past, the ABA has selected themes for Law Day. This year’s theme is “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy.” The ABA has chosen to recognize the significance of the 14th amendment as a powerful legal mechanism that has shaped and transformed American society through its clauses of Citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection, which have advanced the rights of all Americans and granted states power through the Bill of Rights. The ABA concludes that the 14th Amendment is a “cornerstone of civil rights legislation” and a “source of inspiration for those who advocate for equal justice under the law.” For those interested in celebrating, the ABA has a Planning Guide for Law Day that includes a dialogue program with resources for teachers, judges, and lawyers to teach students and local communities about basic American legal principles and civic traditions. The ABA also has a contest for the best 2017 Law Day programs among schools and communities. Check with your local or state bar association for Law Day activities, as many are planning events.

However you celebrate, would like to thank our hardworking, dedicated legal professionals for their commitment to law and the legal process. We wish everyone a happy and productive Law Day.