Law Day or May Day, or both?

by Ashley Anderson, Staff Writer 458 views0

May 1 is when the United States celebrates Law Day, U.S.A.

“It is meant to reflect on the role of law in the foundation of the country and to recognize its importance for society,” stated the American Bar Association Journal.

The Library of Congress posted on its site, “Law Day is a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms Americans enjoy.”

College of the Canyons celebrated its fifth annual Law Day with presentations from the history, speech and law clubs. This year’s theme was “Access to Justice.” Information was provided to students and faculty about free legal representation in the Los Angeles area.

They also encouraged attendees to volunteer their time to organizations such as Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) that specialize in serving unaccompanied children who face the U.S. Immigration system alone.

Originally, former ABA President Charles S. Rhyne was credited for Law Day when he envisioned a special day for celebrating our legal system. However most believe that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared May 1 to be Law Day in 1958.

On December 31, 1958, Eisenhower issued a proclamation, “This Nation was conceived by our forefathers as a nation of free men enjoying ordered liberty under law, and the supremacy of the law is essential to the existence of the Nation.

“I urge the people of the United States to observe Law Day with appropriate public ceremonies and by the reaffirmance of their dedication to our form of government and the supremacy of law in our lives. I especially urge the legal profession, the schools and educational institutions, and all media of public information to take the lead in sponsoring and participating in appropriate observances throughout the Nation.”

President Obama also issued a proclamation on the morning of Law Day 2012, “Our courts are the guarantors of civil justice, social order, and public safety, and we must do everything we can to enable their critical work. The courthouse doors must be open and the necessary services must be in place to allow all litigants, judges, and juries to operate efficiently. Likewise, we must ensure that access to justice is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment that delivers the promise of counsel and assistance for all who seek it.

“Today, let us reflect upon the role generations of legal and judicial professionals have played in building an America worthy of the ideals that inspired its founding. The timeless principles of equal protection and due process remain at the heart of our democracy, and on Law Day, we recommit to upholding them not just in our time, but for all time.”

Law Day is arguably better known as May Day: a day to remember the struggles of workers who were killed or oppressed in their fight for better wages and working conditions. Some people believe Law Day was created in opposition of May Day.

“People seem to know about May Day everywhere except where it began, here in the United States of America. That’s because those in power have done everything they can to erase its real meaning,” stated Noam Chomsky, a political activist, writer for the Huffington Post and Institute Professor emeritus of MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

“Today, the struggle continues to celebrate May Day not as a “law day” as defined by political leaders, but as a day whose meaning is decided by the people, a day rooted in organizing and working for a better future for the whole of society.”

On April 7, 1961, Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating May 1 as Law Day, U.S.A.

This public law has been codified as Title 36 of the United States Code § 113, which states in part, the purpose of Law Day is for the American people to appreciate “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… for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.”

“America’s courtrooms must be open to keep the wheels of justice turning,” stated ABA President William T. Robinson III. “No courts, no justice, no freedom.”

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