Before President Dwight D. Eisenhowerdeclared May 1 to be Law Day, U.S.A., the first day of May was known in some parts of the world as May Day: a day to remember the struggles of workers in their fight for better wages and working conditions. Law Day was originally the idea of Charles S. Rhyne, Eisenhower's legal counsel for a time, who was serving in 1957-1958 as president of the American Bar Association. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 to be Law Day, U.S.A. in 1958. Its observance was later codified by Public Law 87-20 on April 7, 1961.

Some countries celebrate May Day on the same date, as it is designated Labour Day or International Workers Day. But on February 5, 1958, President Eisenhower recognized the first Law Day when he proclaimed that henceforth May 1 of each year would be Law Day in the United States. He stated, "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." Now, many local bars and legal education associations, such as the Florida Law Related Education Association and the New York State Bar Association, use Law Day as a legal education tool, particularly for students. The day has been criticized as being intended to reduce the influence of May Day, a holiday that originated with a workers revolt in the 1800s.

Like Earth Day, Law Day is not a government holiday. To celebrate Law Day, some local bar associations hold a luncheon, featuring speakers who discuss topics such as justice or the liberties provided for by the United States Constitution. Also, attorneys might visit schools and talk to students about the American legal system.

The American Bar Association designates a theme to highlight an important issue relating to the law or legal system. The 2014 theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. The theme reflects the importance of voting rights, ballot box accessibility and voter engagement. The ABA provides resources on its Law Day website, www.lawday.org, to mark the occasion, and also holds several national Law Day programs in Washington, D.C., on April 30 and May 1.

[Text from Wikipedia.]

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Yosemite Division, and the Federal Bar Association, San Joaquin Valley Chapter, under the auspices of the National Park Service, sponsor a Law Day Commemoration in Yosemite Valley. Each year they bus in several hundred eighth grade students from neighboring schools to celebrate the day. Students, lawyers, federal and state judges, Park Service, and other dignitaries and Park visitors assemble under the shade of a giant oak tree in a meadow looking out on thundering Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in America. Mounted U.S. Rangers present the colors. All pledge allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem. Students submit essays on different themes announced each year. Essay contest winners are announced and awarded prizes.

The 2020 Yosemite Law Day will include an essay contest for grammar school students. The theme, The 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, focuses on the right to vote regardless of gender. Professor Elizabeth Joh from UC Davis will be our guest speaker. The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, several attempts to pass a women's suffrage amendment failed until 1919, when suffragists pressed President Woodrow Wilson to call a special congressional session. On May 21, 1919, the proposed amendment passed the House of Representatives, followed by the Senate on June 4, 1919; it was then submitted to the states for ratification. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee was the last of the necessary 36 states to secure ratification. The Nineteenth Amendment was officially adopted on August 26, 1920: the culmination of a decades-long movement for women's suffrage at both state and national levels.

This year the essay prompt is designed so that the winning essays may be eligible for the AAUW National Essay Contest.

For more information, please contact Carol Moses, camoses@yosemitelawyer.com or call (559) 449-9069.

Links to previous Yosemite Law Days are located on the left side bar.