Sunday, May 1 is Law Day in the United States
Law Day Celebrates our Legal Heritage
May 1 in the United States is Law Day, an important celebration of our legal history and heritage that many Americans might not know much about. As established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, Law Day is a federal holiday intended to help Americans reflect on the special role of law in our country’s history and the importance of the rule of law in maintaining a civilized society.
As a celebration centered on “the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life,” according to the codifying document, each Law Day focuses on a different legal theme as designated by the American Bar Association (ABA). This year, the theme is “Miranda: More Than Words,” a 50th anniversary examination of the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. This case established the famous “Miranda warning” or “Miranda rights” procedure that police use to inform criminal suspects of their “right to remain silent” and other legal protections.
According to the ABA, Law Day 2016 “will explore the procedural protections afforded to all of us by the U.S. Constitution, how these rights are safeguarded by the courts, and why the preservation of these principles is essential to our liberty.”
More about the History of Law Day
Law Day originated in 1957 as an idea from Charles S. Rhyne, a prominent attorney who served as the president of the American Bar Association and as legal counsel for President Eisenhower. Rhyne broached the issue to Eisenhower, who took an immediate liking to the idea and issued a proclamation establishing the May 1 holiday on February 5, 1958.
Eisenhower’s ready enthusiasm for the holiday was motivated in part by a desire to offer an alternative celebration to International Workers’ Day or May Day, the worldwide May 1 holiday that commemorates the struggles of working-class people. At the time, May Day was often associated with communism, and several efforts had been made in the preceding decades to establish an alternative American celebration on May 1, including “Americanization Day” and “Loyalty Day.”
Today, many local bar organizations and professional legal groups use Law Day as an educational tool and an opportunity to highlight a particular topic in the history of law, either in America’s history or that of the world. For example, Law Day 2015 commemorated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the historic charter that brought an end to the absolute power of English monarchs and held them accountable under the law.
Law Day 2016: Miranda v. Arizona and Why It Matters
As the theme for Law Day this year, the American Bar Association selected “Miranda: More Than Words,” an examination of the landmark Supreme Court case that established “Miranda rights” for criminal suspects.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona addressed four different cases, each of which involved a defendant who had been interrogated by police in isolation and without being informed of their rights, such as the right to access an attorney. In all four cases, the police obtained oral admissions, three of them resulting in signed statements that were admitted as evidence at trial.
Invoking the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Court considered these cases and ruled that prosecutors may not use as evidence statements that have been obtained through interrogation unless they also demonstrate that procedural safeguards were used to secure the suspect’s right to avoid self-incrimination. Although some in the law enforcement community have protested the decision as an undue burden on their work, U.S. attorneys and legal scholars generally regard the decision as a prudent move to establish critical safeguards that protect citizens from unconstitutional police tactics.
The written decision in Miranda v. Arizona established the historic language that shapes “Miranda rights” warnings in the U.S. to this day – language that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a police show on television. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that a criminal suspect “must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.”
Call The Offices of William D. Cook If You’ve Been Injured
While our area of expertise is not in criminal law here at The Law Office of William D. Cook, we do celebrate and recognize the importance of the law in the everyday lives of America’s citizens. In the same way that the law provides important protections for innocent individuals who have been accused of a crime, the law also provides protection to innocent victims who have been harmed by the negligence of others.
Whether it is from a car accident, a defective product, or other incident, if you or someone you know has been injured or harmed by another party’s negligence, contact the Law Office of William D. Cook today. As a law firm with a proven track record of success in personal injury cases, we offer free confidential consultations and will investigate the details of your case to provide you with the highest quality legal representation.
1958: President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day. (n.d.). HISTORY.com. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-eisenhower-proclaims-law-day
Law Day: A research guide. (n.d.). The Law Library of Congress. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/law-day.php
Law Day 2016 – Miranda: More than words. (n.d.). American Bar Association. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/lawday2016.html
Facts and case summary – Miranda v. Arizona. (n.d.) United States Courts. http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-miranda-v-arizona