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Overview

Law Day is a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms Americans enjoy. 

Law Day had its origin in 1957, when American Bar Association (ABA) President Charles S. Rhyne envisioned a special day for celebrating our legal system.  On February 3, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day by issuing a Proclamation (PDF, 291KB).  Every President since then has issued an annual Law Day Proclamation.  Presidential Proclamations are published in the Federal Register. For a recent example see President Barak Obama's Law Day Proclamation for 2009, Proclamation No. 8367.

On April 7, 1961, Congress passed a Joint Resolution, Pub. L. 87-20, 75 Stat. 43, designating May 1 as Law Day, U.S.A.  This Public Law has been codified in Title 36, Section 113 of the United States Code (USC).  The Joint Resolution requests the President to issue a Proclamation each year and provides that Law Day:

"is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States … 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; … for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life ... inviting the people of the United States to observe Law Day, U.S.A., with appropriate ceremonies and in other appropriate ways, through public entities and private organizations and in schools and other suitable places."

Each year Law Day events and programs are planned and carried out by bar associations, courts, and various educational entities. The American Bar Association (external link) (ABA) selects a theme each year for Law Day events. The ABA’s theme for 2012 is No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom (external link). The ABA publishes an annual Planning Guide (external link) (PDF) with content for lesson plans and classroom programs for Law Day as well as suggestions on publicizing Law Day events (external link) in local communities.  To celebrate this year's Law Day, the Law Library of Congress has invited Academy Award-winning Actor Richard Dreyfuss to speak at the Law Library's Law Day event.  In conjunction with this, the Law Library has created a display of materials which illustrate issues of access to the courts throughout our history. 

Legislative Branch Documents

Law Day, U.S.A., Public Law 87-20, 75 Stat. 43, April 7, 1961, currently codified in 36 United States Code 113

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Executive Branch Documents

Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders have been used by presidents to rule on substantive issues of law; to administrate the executive branch of government; and to make general announcements to the public. These general announcements which exhort the public to observe a holiday such as Thanksgiving or honor a particular group of citizens as in National Black History Month are usually issued in the form of a Presidential Proclamation. On many occasions Congress will pass a law specifically requesting the President to take certain action such as proclaiming the recognition of a particular group of citizens such as Jewish or Hispanic Americans.

Presidential Proclamations for the annual observances of Law Day can be browsed through the American Presidency Project (external link) by selecting the year and clicking on the Display button.

Presidential proclamations as well as Presidential statements, messages, and remarks for Law Day can be searched from the Government Printing Office’s Advanced Search page in the collections for the Code of Federal Regulations, the Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Federal Register.

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Books

American Bar Association, Law Day, U.S.A., May 1, 1960; proclaimed by the President of the United States as a day of dedication to the rule of law in American life; information and program manual. Chicago, Ill.: American Bar Association, 1960.

American Bar Association, Planning guide (external link) / American Bar Association (Law Day U.S.A.), Chicago, Ill.: American Bar Association, annual. Current year available from ABA web site.

Journal Articles and Speech Transcripts

Griffin B. Bell, Law Day Address, 2 Whittier Law Review 1 (1979).

Stephen Breyer, Law Day, 35 Tulsa Law Journal 221 (2000).

Walter Chandler, Law Day Is Our Day, 25 Tennessee Law Review 426 (1958).

Tom C. Clark, Justice among Men - The Significance of Law Day, 48 American Bar Association Journal 313 (1962).

William O. Douglas, Remarks on Law Day 1973, 24 Syracuse Law Review 1209 (1973).

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Earl Warren, Statements of the President and Chief Justice on Law Day - U.S.A., 44 American Bar Association Journal 544 (1958).

Paul A. Freund, Law Day Address--Law and the Education of the Citizen, 19 South Carolina Law Review 297 (1967).

Leon Jaworski, Youth Leadership--Law Day 1970, 8 Houston Law Review 88 (1970).

Frederick B. Karl, Law Day Remarks, 29 University of Florida Law Review 674 (1977).

Nicholas DeB. Katzenbach, Law Day Address, 18 South Carolina Law Review 371 (1966).

Edward H. Levi, Law Day Address, 55 Nebraska Law Review 35 (1975).

George J. Mitchell, Law Day Address, 17 Whittier Law Review 697 (1996).

John N. Mitchell, Law Day Address, 25 Southwestern Law Journal 235 (1971).

George E. Pataki, Governor George E. Pataki's Remarks Law Day at Pace University School of Law - May 1, 1996, 14 Pace Environmental Law Review 15 (1996).

Russell G. Pearce, Law Day 2050: Post-Professionalism, Moral Leadership, and the Law-as-Business Paradigm, 27 Florida State University Law Review 9 (1999). Available online (external link).

Janet Reno, Law Day 1997: A Legacy of Public Service, 26 Capital University Law Review 227 (1997).

Charles S. Rhyne, Law Day - U.S.A.: Emphasizing the Supremacy of Law, 44 American Bar Association Journal 313 (1958).

William French Smith, Remarks of the Attorney General on Law Day, 34 South Carolina Law Review 247 (1982).

Web Resources

ABA Law Day Main Page (external link)

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Last Updated: 02/28/2014