We have celebrated our country’s dedication to the principles of government under law since 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 1 of each year as the official Law Day. The intention was to appropriate observance of that day for Americans to rededicate themselves to the ideals of equality and justice under the law.
This year, Kansas has much to celebrate as Law Day falls near the anniversaries of two major pieces of legislation. On May 17, our country will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Many view the Brown decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as the most important legal decision of the 20th century. The key ruling of the court was that racial segregation of public schools was wrong. Following this decision, many civil rights cases were launched and led to a majority of the anti-discrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Another piece of landmark legislation is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. It is designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The American Bar Association chose "American Democracy and the Rule of law: Why Every Vote Matters” as the theme for Law Day 2014. It is with this in mind that the Kansas Bar Association is sponsoring a special continuing legal education session on Wednesday, April 30, for lawyer-legislators specifically.
In an effort to help provide information about important cases and why we celebrate Law Day, the KBA has also dedicated the March and April issues of Law Wise to these topics. Law Wise is a free publication for Kansas Educators that is published six times a year from funding provided by the Kansas Bar Foundation and the KBA Law-Related Education Committee. Anyone can sign up to receive this electronic publication by visiting http://www.ksbar.org/lawwise. The March issue provides information about the Brown case, and includes a timeline and a lesson plan on learning to respect each other. The April issue features information following the ABA Law Day theme and includes Kansas voting topics and a lesson plan on the different strategies used in political campaign ads.