Law Day is a national day set aside on the first day of May to recognize the rule of law, and how the legal process contributes to the freedoms all Americans enjoy. It also recognizes the role of our courts in protecting those freedoms, and how we all have a responsibility to help in that process, including with jury service. Is there a more important topic to discuss among lawyers?
Having decided to write this month’s President’s Message about Law Day, I figured that I probably first should get my facts straight. People of my generation were trained to do research from things called “books.” But, I decided to try to come into this century, and did my research on the Internet. As an Internet rookie, however, on my way to Law Day my attention was diverted to a few other American holidays, apparently of some lesser importance.
I typed “Law Day” into my search engine, only to learn that, in America, we celebrate “Mother-in-Law Day” – every year on the fourth Sunday of October. According to www.altiusdirectory.com: “Though there is no factual information regarding why this day is celebrated, researchers opine that Mother-in-Law Day may have [been] started by [the] cards, flowers and confectionary industries.” A day to honor one’s motherin- law with cards, flowers and confectionary items started by the cards, flowers and confectionary industries? A quintessentially American holiday indeed.
Curious, I wondered whether there was a Father-in-Law Day, too. There is. It is celebrated on July 30 every year. I could find nothing about its origin. All I discovered was that it is on the official celebration calendar of a South African chain of “Authentic Irish Pubs” called The Brazen Head. No cards or flowers for fathers-in-law, no Sir. Suggests the Brazen Head website instead: “So bring him to The Brazen Head and treat him to a great meal – or at least his favorite draught.” Now you’re talking!
But, I digress.
I finally got to some websites devoted to Law ay. I discovered that, in 1957, American Bar Association President Charles Rhyne envisioned a special day for celebrating the United States legal system. At his urging, on Feb. 3, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day by proclamation. In 1961, a joint Congressional resolution established Law Day as an official day of observance throughout the United States. The celebration became officially codified that year in 36 U.S.C. §113.
As I pointed and clicked my way through my Law Day research, I discovered that May 1 also is “Loyalty Day” – an official observance where we recognize our loyalty to the United States and the freedoms it promises to all of its citizens. Loyalty Day was established in 1958, also by an act of Congress, and was first celebrated by proclamation of President Eisenhower on May 1, 1959. I suspect that, in those days, the lobby that may have been suspicious of a Law Day settled a year later for a presidential reminder on the same day for us all to be both legal and loyal, too.
But, I digress again.
Since President Eisenhower in 1958, every president has issued a Law Day proclamation, usually inviting the nation to join in recognizing the importance of the rule of law in the United States. Also, the proclamation sets the theme for that year’s observance, such as “Justice for All” or “Foundations of Freedom.” This year’s theme is “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to the 2013 official Law Day website, “Law Day, May 1, 2013, will provide 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. It will provide a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Rev. Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
What really started me thinking about devoting this President’s Message to Law Day was one of the unique ways we have recognized Law Day here in Ventura County, with our annual Law Day 5K run/walk event. Organized annually by a committee of local members of the legal community, and led for the past number of years by Past Ventura County Bar Association President, Joe Strohman, this year is the 30th anniversary of the event.
You might ask what possible relationship a 5K race has to recognizing the rule of law in America. The answer is that ours is a major fundraising event for the Volunteer Lawyer Services Program, Inc., an organization devoted to providing volunteer legal services to members of our community whose access to justice otherwise might be impaired or even denied.
This year’s event will be on May 18. Following pre-race festivities, the race starts at 8:30 am. Joe has assured me that there still is time to register. You can run, jog or even walk it. You can sign up through the event website at www.lawday5k.com or by calling the VCBA offices.
I know many of you, like me, are exercise challenged. But that does not matter. The last time I entered, I sprinted out with the best of them – wind in my face, spring in my step, breakfast burrito in my stomach. Then, just short of the 1K mark, it happened. From behind me, I could hear what sounded something like metallic jingling. As it got closer, I could hear the steady footsteps of a trained runner. And as it passed me by, I saw it – I had just been passed by a dachshund. A dachshund? Oh, the shame of it all. But, the takeaway from my performance that day is that you would have to work pretty hard to do worse than I did, and be pretty grumpy not to have a lot of fun doing it.
The Law Day 5K is an enjoyable event, it raises funds to promote access to justice for those in need, and it also celebrates a very important day that recognizes a very important idea – the rule of law in America. Hey, you all are lawyers. What is more important for lawyers to do than that? I know you could use the exercise, and you could even invite your mother-in-law, too. I hope to see you all there.
Joel Mark is the managing partner at Nordman Cormany Hair & Compton LLP, in Oxnard. Any similarity between Mr. Mark and an elite runner is more than a coincidence. It is a complete fantasy.