Ever since 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower first dedicated May 1st as “Law Day”, every American President has issued an annual proclamation recognizing “Law Day USA” as the day on which we celebrate the rule of law and the freedoms assured to us by our legal system. In 1961, Congress formalized “Law Day” by passing Joint Resolution, Pub. L. 87-20, 75 Stat. 43, now codified in Title 36, Section 113 of the United States Code. The law requests the President to issue an annual proclamation and also, in part, provides that:
Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States—
(1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and
(2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.
North Carolina native, Charles S. Rhyne, a former President of the American Bar Association, had envisioned the idea of a special day which would recognize the contributions made by our legal system. It is on this day that we not only honor our legal and judicial systems, but also recognize that this legacy emanated from countless individuals’ struggle for justice. Upon the occasion of the first “Law Day,” then Governor of New York, Averell Harriman stated:
“Adherence to law has enabled commerce and industry to build upon a firm foundation. The whole complex of our social order has been erected on a framework of law and justice. Without this recognition of law as the base of our free society, individual liberties would be impaired, if not destroyed. In our country, we must recognize that the preservation of equal justice under law in a personal responsibility.”
This year, the ABA has chosen “Law in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges” as a theme which were permits us to look forward as well as recognizing past contributions. This theme is significant as our legal system is being shaped by new technologies and a mobile society. Global transactions have introduced shared concerns and have required that we adapt to new cultures and become knowledgeable about other legal systems. We are being challenged to new understandings and partnerships.
Challenge yourself by taking the President’s Day trivia quiz and learn more about the contributions our leaders have made to our legal system.