Law Day 2021: Advancing the Rule of Law Now

In 1961, Congress proclaimed May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.  It is a chance to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession.  Each year there is a theme which is chosen to call attention to the law and its impact on our lives.  On Law Day, bar associations, law libraries, professional associations, courts, and many other organizations celebrate by sponsoring educational programs, holding legal clinics, organizing courthouse tours, and more! 

This year’s theme is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” to remind all of us that we the people share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice.  President Biden issued a proclamation which can be read here.  Considering this year’s theme, President Biden wrote,

The theme of this year’s Law Day, “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” is particularly fitting at this moment in our Nation’s history. Recently, we were again called to recognize that democracy is precious and fragile.  We have witnessed grave threats to our democratic institutions and to the rule of law itself. These tragic events have taught us once again that when we are united, we can overcome the greatest challenges and move our country forward — but it takes a commitment to law over demagoguery, and the enforcement of law free from political interference, to do so.

A Proclamation on Law Day, U.S.A, 2021
APRIL 30, 2021

Ramsey County celebrated this year with a program that was sponsored by both the Ramsey County Law Library and the Ramsey County Bar Association.  The featured speaker was Mark Osler, whose presentation was titled Reconsidering Criminal Justice After the Death of George FloydProfessor Mark Osler is a former federal prosecutor and reform advocate who teaches at the University of St. Thomas.  He was joined by Erikka Ryan, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Minnesota State Bar Association, who facilitated the discussion after Professor’s Osler’s presentation. 

In his presentation, Professor Osler described the continuum of changes regarding how the judicial system acted in response to deaths caused by police officers in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  In 2015, Jamar Clark was shot by two police officers, and the Hennepin County Attorney declined to prosecute them, believing that there was not enough evidence to convict.  Contrast that to last month, when a jury convicted Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. 

Professor Osler also pointed out a bold change in the Chauvin trial that had not happened in the past:  the entire trial, from picking the jury, the witness testimony, and finally the reading of the verdict was televised so that everyone could see the process.  The transparency of the proceedings allowed the community to believe that the process and verdict ended in a fair result.  

And so, even as we have evolved as a community, so must we examine and amend the laws that govern us so that the rule of law can be implemented and applied fairly.  The Conviction Review Unit Advisory Board, the investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department by the Department of Justice, and the various bills going through the state and federal legislatures – these are just some of the steps we are taking to evaluate our laws and make plans to move forward and effect change.  We share the responsibility to see that the law is created, implemented, and respected so that all Americans are treated with fairness and dignity under the rule of law.

 

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