Attorneys nationwide prepare for Law Day celebrations
Kari Burns describes promoting the rule of law as “near and dear” to her heart.
That’s why Burns, the chief strategy officer at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, gets involved in Law Day, which is held annually on May 1 to recognize the rule of law in our society and encourage a greater understanding of the legal profession. It’s also why Burns and her colleagues at the CMBA planned an entire Law Week, scheduled this year for May 1-5.
“We as lawyers should be upholding the rule of law,” Burns says. “And obviously over the past four or five years, it’s come under attack in our nation. We thought as attorneys and as the bar association, we should really promote this idea and put it in the front of people’s minds.”
The CMBA’s Law Week events include a May 3 CLE program, “The Rule of Law in Ohio: Redistricting and Voting Rights,” where speakers, including former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, will discuss the redistricting process and voting regulations in the state. In partnership with the City Club of Cleveland, the bar association will also host a conversation with former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr on May 5.
Along with other programs and receptions, the CMBA and Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will offer a free advice and referral clinic for the public on May 13.
“It’s about showing people what the rule of law is, what it isn’t and how it affects daily life,” Burns says.
Launching Law Day
Law Day began with the ABA. Then-President Charles Rhyne introduced the idea for a national dedication to the rule of law in 1957, and it was formally established by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower the following year. In 1961, Congress designated May 1 as the official date for Law Day, and celebrations since have spread around the world.
ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross discussed during a special program in March this year’s Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility and Collaboration.” Enix-Ross, who has talked often about the “three Cs” during her term, said at the time that it’s critical for the association to engage in public education about the legal and justice systems.
“We have to elevate the three Cs, civics, civility and collaboration, for all to see and hear because if we don’t, our justice system will lose another C, and that’s confidence, from the public,” Enix-Ross said. “We just cannot allow yet another C, cynicism, to drown out the value of law and democracy as a guarantor of liberty, justice, opportunity, human rights, dignity and peace.”
As part of the national commemoration of Law Day, the ABA and Law Library of Congress will host “Civility and Collaboration: U.S. and International Perspectives,” a virtual panel discussion on April 27. Enix-Ross will speak on the panel, and Sharon Stern Gerstman, the national chair of Law Day 2023, will provide welcome remarks.
“It’s about our theme this year and what other countries have done along the same lines as our theme, that maybe we need to emulate,” Stern Gerstman says. “Because it’s a worldwide issue. The division in democracy has also happened everywhere else.”
The ABA is partnering with the National Constitution Center, which on April 28 will offer a virtual tour of its “The Story of We the People” exhibit, exploring Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution and the judicial branch of government. Among its other programs, the National Constitution Center will host a virtual Law Day scholar exchange on May 5. During this virtual event, students, parents and teachers are invited to discuss the Fourth Amendment with the center’s scholars.
The ABA Division for Public Education provides a planning guide for lawyers, educators and community members who want to organize their own Law Day celebrations. In addition to program ideas and lesson ideas, resources this year include public service announcements that Mickey Mantle, Thurgood Marshall and other celebrities recorded in 1968 to commemorate Law Day.
“We would love to see every organization related in any way to law host a program,” Stern Gerstman says.
Want to get involved?
Lawyers in other parts of the country are also finding creative ways to get involved with Law Day.
Shalini Natesan is president of the Albany County Bar Foundation, which will hold its 29th Law Day 5K walk/run in Albany, New York, on April 27. In addition to bringing lawyers together to recognize the rule of law, the annual event raises money for local nonprofit organizations providing services to domestic violence survivors and their families and access to justice at Albany Family Court.
“We use this run as a networking opportunity and to connect with fellow lawyers in the community and their families, but we’re also doing it for a good cause,” says Natesan, a principal partner at the Towne Law Firm.
More than 250 participants have registered, Natesan says, but she hopes that number will surpass 300. She also hopes to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 for the charities.
Benjamin Gordon, the chair of the Clark County Bar Association’s Community Service Committee, has helped organize a first-time Law Day event at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
Scheduled for May 4, it begins with a morning CLE program on family law and landlord tenant matters for U.S. Air Force legal personnel. In the afternoon, volunteers from the CCBA, Clark County Law Library, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Nevada Legal Services, Nevada Attorney General’s Office of Military Legal Assistance and Southern Nevada Senior Law Program will host a law fair for service members.
“It will allow members of the military that are stationed there and their families to come ask general questions, whether it be about landlord tenant issues, family law, adoption issues, immigration,” says Gordon, an associate at Naylor & Braster in Las Vegas. “One of our partners here, John Naylor, is also going to be at one of the tables related to commercial law and business law, understanding that a lot of military members want to set up LLCs, small businesses, as they leave the military.”
For more information about Law Day 2023, including resources, related events and other planning ideas, visit LawDay.org.