Law Day is held every May 1 throughout the nation to celebrate the rule of law. It was established in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower to mark the nation’s rule of law and codified by Congress in 1961. Law Day underscores how the 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 democracy and the importance of jury service to maintaining the integrity of the courts.
Each year, the American Bar Association designates a Law Day theme and provides free resources and materials to assist bar associations and lawyers in planning law day events such as educational community forums, contests, and school visits.
The Law Day theme that the ABA has chosen for 2021 is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” Information, ideas and resources can be found on the ABA website. The ABA has chosen this theme because, “the rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties—in times of calm and unrest alike. The 2021 Law Day theme — Advancing the Rule of Law, Now — reminds all of us that we the people share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice.”
Pennsylvania has traditionally commemorated Law Day by focusing on educating children about the rule of law. Through classroom visits by lawyers and judges and an outstanding set of free law-related lesson plans prepared for K-College classrooms, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, Pennsylvania Bar Association and county bar associations across the commonwealth work with schools to educate children about their legal rights and responsibilities in the new millennium. Lawyers can choose to focus on discussing the annual ABA theme, their own experience or and careers, or discussing topics designated by the schools. The free lessons and materials are designed to be informative and engaging for all students.
For Law Day 2021 we all have to make some modifications to how we celebrate, but Law Day still provides Pennsylvania lawyers and judges with a wonderful opportunity to become involved in their local communities. Law Day is funded by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation.
Below are a few favorite lessons you can use to talk with students about the Rule of Law. These ideas can be easily adapted to virtual discussions.
No Animals in the Library - This is a fun exercise that requires students to think about making decisions based on an unclear rule and then consider the consequences of their decisions. A sample introductory script is provided to give you some ideas on how you might talk with students about your job and tie in the "No Animals" lesson.
Middle to High School
No Vehicles in the Park - This lesson engages students and adults by asking them to think and decide on various hypotheticals. By doing this they begin to understand what goes into making a law, why laws are needed, the difficulty in making decisions based on an unclear law and then considering the consequences of their decisions on individual citizens and the community.
I Can't Wear What?
In this lesson from the iCivics web site, students meet Ben Brewer and find out what happened the day he decided to wear his favorite band T-shirt to school in violation of a new dress code rule. Students read a summary of a Supreme Court case to figure out the "rule" that applies to Ben's problem. Everything you need to deliver this lesson, including step-by-step instructions, is provided by the iCivics team. Many other great lessons are provided on the iCivics website.
Why We Have/Need Rules and Laws - This exercise asks students to think about the need for laws using a hypothetical situation where there has been a natural disaster.