While everyone has likely heard of May Day, a day that celebrates workers who have fought for better wages and conditions, did you know there is another holiday celebrated on May 1st? In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that May 1st was to be celebrated as Law Day in the United States. Now, every year on Law Day, the American Bar Association (ABA) and various state bars use this day to discuss important issues regarding the law in this country.

The History of Law Day

From  1957 to 1958, Hicks Epton served as the president of the American Bar Association. He also was legal counsel to President Eisenhower during this time period. It was at his suggestion that President Eisenhower implemented Law Day.

While President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1st to be recognized as law day on February 5, 1958, it was not until April 7, 1961, that it was codified by Public Law 87-20. Upon his proclamation, President Eisenhower was quoted as saying, “In a very real sense, the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law.”

How Law Day Is Observed

While Law Day is a legal holiday, like Earth Day, it is not a federal holiday. This means that people do not get off from work to observe it.  Instead, local bar associations hold luncheons or other events to address various legal topics that are important to the fabric of society, such as the liberties provided to us by the United States Constitution. This is also a day when many attorneys visit local schools to educate them about the legal system in the United States.

The ABA chooses a yearly theme for Law Day. The 2019 Law Day theme will be “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society—focuses on these cornerstones of representative government and calls on us to understand and protect these rights to ensure, as the U.S. Constitution proposes, ‘the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.’”

The ABA’s goal this year is to highlight the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in relation to maintaining a free society. They will also look at how new technologies are affecting these basic freedoms.  On April 30 and May 1, the American Bar Association also holds Law Day programs all around Washington D.C. to educate people.

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