Law Day 2014: Celebrating the Legal System and Legal Profession in America

While many in the legal profession are likely aware that May 1 is designated as national Law Day in the United States -- an occasion to recognize the importance of the rules of law and the legal system -- how many of you know its origins?

Here’s a short quiz to test your knowledge about Law Day:

1. What year was Law Day established?

a. 1939

b. 1958

c. 1983

2. True or False: Law Day was established by a U.S. President who was not a lawyer.

3. True or False: The motivation to designate May 1 as Law Day directly related to the Cold War.


Scroll down for the answers to the quiz.

Quiz answers:

Question 1: The correct answer is "b." In 1957, Charles S. Rhyne, an attorney in Washington, D.C. and president of the American Bar Association, conceived of the idea to set aside a special day to recognize and celebrate the American legal system. Having served as legal counsel to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a time, Rhyne used his relationship with the administration to encourage President Eisenhower to declare May 1, 1958 as the first official Law Day.

Question 2: The correct answer is "true." Eisenhower was one of 18 U.S. Presidents who were not lawyers. 

In his statement in 1958 in observation of Law Day, President Eisenhower said: “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.”                                                         

The American Bar Association explains that Law Day “. . . underscores how law and the legal process contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share. Law Day also provides an opportunity to recognize the role of courts in this democracy and the importance of jury service to maintaining the integrity of the courts.”

Question 3: The correct answer is "true." In remarks Rhyne presented to the Law Library of Congress on Law Day in 2000, he explained why he had suggested that May 1 be established as Law Day to recognize the legal process:

"The immediate inspiration for a May 1 celebration of Law was directly related to the Cold War. For many years, the American news media gave front-page headlines and pictures to the Soviet Union's May Day Parade of new war weapons. I was distressed that so much attention was given to war-making rather than peacekeeping."



This year, the ABA’s 2014 Law Day theme is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” calling on Americans to “reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy.”

The ABA and many state bar associations are planning events to celebrate Law Day. For more information, check the ABA’s Law Day website or its Law Day 2014 Planning Guide for program and resource information.


                  (Image courtesy of the American Bar Association)