Law Day 2009 Celebrates Lincoln’s Birthday

Law Day 2009 celebrates the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, regarded by many as the nation’s greatest president. Lincoln, who devoted much of his adult life to the practice of law and once served as a bar examiner, was the quintessential American lawyer-president.

Each Law Day is built around a central theme. Listed below are the themes from 2002 – 2008:

2008: The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity

2007: Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy

2006: Liberty Under Law: Separate Branches, Balanced Powers

2005: The American Jury: We the People in Action

2004: To Win Equality by Law: Brown v. Board at 50

2003: Celebrate Your Freedom: Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties

2002: Celebrate Your Freedom: Assuring Equal Justice for All

The federal statute that recognizes Law Day, codified in 36 U.S.C. § 113, states:

Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States—

(1) 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; and

(2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.

On February 5, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized the first “Law Day” when  he proclaimed that henceforth May 1 of each year would be Law Day, a date chosen to contrast with the Communist celebration of May Day on the same date. In a statement marking the holiday, 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.” See David Ray Papke, Law, Cinema, and Ideology: Hollywood Legal Films of the 1950s, 48 UCLA L. Rev. 1473 (2001).

For more information about Law Day, visit the ABA website.