Law Day: The Importance of Law
May 1 is Law Day, a time to reflect on the importance of the law in protecting freedom and ensuring justice for all Americans.
In recognition of Law Day, our team at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton honor the pivotal role of the law in our society both in the past and today.
History of Law Day
American Bar Association president Charles S. Rhyne proposed a day for celebrating our legal system in 1957. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day a year later. The president of the United States has issued a Law Day proclamation recognizing the importance of the rule of law every year since 1958.
In 1961, Congress designated May 1 as the official date for Law Day. Thousands of Law Day programs are conducted each year by bar groups, courts, schools, youth groups, and community organizations across the country.
Importance of the Law: Founding of America
When creating a new government, the Founding Fathers needed to define how laws would be made, interpreted, and upheld.
Signed on September 17, 1787, the Constitution established the structure of the government and legal system. It assigned Congress the responsibility for making laws and established the Judicial Branch with the U.S. Supreme Court as the federal court system’s highest court.
Courts have the responsibility to interpret the Constitution’s meaning, as well as the meaning of any laws passed by Congress.
Alexander Hamilton wrote that the federal courts “were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and their legislature.” The judicial branch is responsible for ensuring that Congress doesn’t go beyond the authority given by the constitution.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, codify fundamental civil rights and liberties of American citizens. These include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to due process under the law.
Fighting for Equality Before the Law
The Constitution didn’t guarantee freedom, equality, and justice for everyone. Women couldn’t vote and slavery was legal. Over many years, brave people fought to correct these and other injustices.
Here are some important milestones in these struggles:
- 1865: 13th Amendment abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime.
- 1870: 14th Amendment prohibits denying the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Southern states still disenfranchise Black voters after reconstruction.
- 1920: 19th Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex.
- 1924: Congress signs the Indian Citizenship Act granting citizenship to Native Americans.
- 1954: The Supreme Court rules racial segregation unconstitutional in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. But many schools remain segregated.
- 1955: The murder of Emmett Till and the acquittal of the murderers draw attention to the Civil Rights movement.
- 1957: Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law to help protect voter rights.
- 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This prevents employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion, or national origin and establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- 1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- 1968: President Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act. It states that people should have equal access to housing opportunities regardless of race.
- 1968: President Johnson signs the Indian Civil Rights Act granting Native American tribes many of the rights set out in the Bill of Rights.
- 1972: Title IX of the Education Amendments is signed by President Nixon. This forbids discrimination based on sex in educational programs receiving federal financial assistance.
- 1973: The Supreme Court rules right to an abortion is protected by the Constitution in Roe v. Wade.
The Importance of the Law in Society
The website for the U.S. federal court states “equality before the law is an essential part of the American system of government.” The court plays an essential part in upholding the rule of law “particularly when they hear the grievances voiced by minority groups or by those who may hold minority opinions.” Everyone’s rights must be protected.
The principle of equality before the law also means that the powerful should be held accountable. That is a guiding principle for our team at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton. As a leading Birmingham personal injury firm, we help clients who have been harmed by another party’s negligence pursue the compensation they deserve.
We handle a variety of cases, including litigation against some of the largest corporations in the world. We believe in justice for all, and welcome the opportunity to speak to you if you feel you have been wronged due to the negligence of another party. Call our office today at 800-568-5330 for a no-obligation, free consultation.