Law Day

Law Day 2019: Free speech, free press, free society

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For Lucian Pera, the chair of Law Day 2019, this year’s theme of “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” is timely and vital.

“The central position that our rights of free speech and free press play not just in our everyday life, but in the way our country works and the way the rule of law works,” says Pera, a former ABA treasurer and a partner in Adams and Reese in Memphis, Tennessee. “If you do away with the rights of free speech and free press, the whole system is at risk.”

May 1, 2019, will mark the 61st anniversary of Law Day, which is held every year as a celebration of the rule of law in our society. Former ABA President Charlie Rhyne is credited with persuading President Dwight Eisenhower to declare the first Law Day in 1958.

“Free speech and a free press are the foundations for a free society,” says ABA President Bob Carlson, who selected this year’s theme. “The theme for Law Day 2019 is particularly relevant because these freedoms have dominated public discourse and debate recently. Law Day will give us all an opportunity to explore these freedoms by examining their history and considering their future.”

To encourage countrywide participation, the ABA Division for Public Education has designed a planning guide that features tips for organizing an effective Law Day event. Lesson plans for all ages, handouts and multimedia toolkits are included in the planning guide, available at Law Day-themed products—such as gavel stress relievers, Liberty Bell plaques and pocket Constitutions—can be purchased online.

The main event sponsored by the ABA for Law Day is the Leon Jaworski Public Program series, which is open to the public. This year’s program is titled “The Marketplace of Ideas in an Era of Fake News,” and it will be held at 6 p.m. May 1 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Registration will be available on the Law Day website.

Pera says the topic of fake news is central to conversations about attacks on the free press.

“Are we concerned because there is actually fake news, Russian bots that are creating news stories, or are we concerned about the label of somebody like the Washington Post, the New York Times—obviously a news institution—as fake news?” Pera says. “I don’t know which to be more concerned about.” n

Learn more about Law Day 2019 at, and check out our gallery of nine historic Supreme Court rulings that set the stage for future First Amendment cases.

See also:

Social Clashes: Digital free speech is a hot legal battleground

How 2 Supreme Court cases from 1919 shaped the next century of First Amendment law

Student free speech case ‘chipped away’ at after 50 years, but ‘overall idea’ remains


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