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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 1, 2006

lawdy-lawdy, another Law Day

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:47 am


May 1st is Law Day. If you’re at all familiar with this weblog, you’re
probably expecting another sermon like “
Law Day, Not Lawyers’ Day,”
from 2004, or our 2005 “
towards a better Law Day.” This year, however,
we’re not in a preachy mood (not this very moment, that is), so we’ll
just refer back to those prior pieces as a matter of principle, and point to
Law Day: A time for self-examination, not self-congratulation,” by Ben
Cowgill (May 2, 2005). (and see Ben’s
promised Law Day version of Blawg
Review #55).


For Law Day 2006, a series of disjointed blurbs will have to do.

tiny check The Law Day Theme is promulgated each year by the American Bar
Association. This year’s theme is timely and important: “Liberty Under
Law: Separate Branches, Balanced Powers.” The f/k/a Gang knows well
how important check and balances can be — it’s difficult to imagine what
this weblog would be like if Your Editor, Prof. Yabut, or haikuEsq got to
run the operation alone. Rule of Law, justice, and efficiency, would be in
short supply.

It’s not exactly surprising that many Americans fail to understand
the basic principles of Balance of Powers. In urging its members
to participate in Law Day programs, the New York State Bar
Association noted:

“A Harris Poll commissioned by the American Bar Association
and conducted from July 22 through July 27, 2005, found that
less than half (48 percent) of Americans can correctly identify
the meaning of the separation of powers. The same poll found
that nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) can correctly
identify the principle of checks and balances. Only just over
half of Americans (55 percent) can correctly identify the three
branches of government. And less than half of the poll¦#x2019;s res-
pondents (48 percent) correctly identified the role of the judiciary
in the federal government.

“The need for bar association members to get involved in Law
Day activities in their own communities has never been greater.”

[Despite this call to action, NYSBA does not appear to have
taken a major role in celebrating Law Day, and few county bar
associations are participating across the State.]


We’re not so sure members of the bar would have done significantly
better than the general public answering that Harris Poll. You can
Take the Law Day Quiz to see where you stand. [Did Alexander
Hamilton say that the legislature is the most dangerous branch?]

If you’re in D.C, today, head to the Library of Congress
for the 2006 Leon Jaworski Public Program (6th Annual),
which covers this years Law Day theme, with the focus of
“Madison’s Legacy.” Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic and
George Washington Law School is the moderator for a dis-
tinguished panel of jurists and scholars. The program link
above will bring you to a list of Framed Issues, including this


“Of the three forms of government ¦#x2014; executive, legislative,
and judicial ¦#x2014; which do you think has been most dangerous
and capable of “everywhere extending the sphere of its activity”?
Why? Has this changed historically? Varies around the world?”

Go here to find out whether there are Law Day activities in your area
today or this week. And browse the ABA Law Day Program materials,
if you need referesher courses for yourself or want be dazzling at lunch
or dinner today.

tiny check For example, there are some interesting materials aimed
at Middle and High School students on the timely topic
What is Judicial Independence?” This one-page hand-out
presents a number of fact scenarios and asks whether the
practice violated the principle of judicial independence. As
they say, some are ripped from recent news headlines.

LawDayBalloons  Get Your Law Day Mementos:  Okay, we promised not to be preachy, but we can still have some fun, can’t we? It wouldn’t be Law Day at f/k/a without us mentioning the fun items available at the ABA Law Day Store. For example:


The Law Day Poster is only $4.95, and it is “A must-have”
for Law Day” — providing “a colorful and intriguing vehicle
for communicating our nation’s three branches of government.”

the anger from work
in my son’s birthday balloons

George Swede
Almost Unseen

Law Day Balloons come in a Package of 30 for only $8.50.
They are “fun for kids and adults. Strong, helium retentive,


The Law Day Cooler Pack is only $7.00, and apparently
needs no sales pitch — except for the reminded that it
“Keeps food and beverages fresh.”

warm beer–
heat lightning flickers
beyond the outfield

Billie Wilson
frogpond XVII:2 (2004)

2005 vs. 2006

Last year, we pointed out that the word ‘lawyer’ didn’t even appear
in the
White House press release proclaiming Law Day 2005. That
was a good thing, since we want to focus on Law and not Lawyers;
and it wasn’t surprising, considering the President’s prickly relationship
with the bar. This year, however, the White House Press Release
titled “
Law Day, U.S.A., 2006” (April 28, 2006) has the President
exclaiming that:

“Law Day is an occasion for us to celebrate our Constitution
and to
honor those in the judiciary and legal profession who
work to uphold and serve its principles
.” (emphasis added)

Did the President leave out the comma after the word “profession”
intentionally? We amateur linguists want to know.


Another contrast: Last year, ATLA (the Association of Trial Lawyers
pf America), had lots of materials at its website about Law Day 2005.
This year, not a word (as of May 1, 2006, 1 AM, ESDT) Of course, the
theme last year was ¦#x201C;The American Jury: We the People in Action,
and an ATLA Community Outreach/Politcal Action
memo reminded
members that they should visit schools
because“The children in our
schools today are our jurors of tomorrow.”

tiny check Of course, ATLA has been busy with its own version
of protecting separation of powers — making sure the
legislature doesn’t trample on ATLA turf or the rights
of its clients. (See April 13
press release, and a copy
of ATLA’s recent full-page ad in USAToday which asks
Haven’t the Big Corporation CEOs taken enough?). The
ATLA ad — which was placed to fight back “Against De-
ception from U.S. Chamber of Commerce” — ends by
exclaiming that the Chamber:

“has already overrun Washington with money

and lobbyists. Don’t let them run off with our


[Ed. Note: Don’t you love it when a group aims a

barb at its opponents that could have been used

verbatim by its opponents against it?]


“tinyredcheck” In Cumberland County, North Carolina:

“Judges and attorneys shut down the courts to visit
56 elementary schools as part of the 2006 Law Day
celebrations.To help explain the law to children, the
judges and lawyers showed the kids [a video version
of Aesop’s Fable “The Lion’s Share“].

“In the fable, a lion agreed to share food equally with
all the other animals before the hunt. When dinner came,
however, the lion took most of the catch.”

” . . . . At the end of the day, it was judgment hour for
the lion. The punishment was five days without food,
and the lion had to hunt for the other animals’ next meal.
It was justice, fifth grade style.”

You can read about and see a tv clip of the encounter here.
(News14Carolina, “Lawyers use fables to teach kids about the
law,” April 27, 2006)


Finally, we all want to end on a serious note. This past year, we have
seen a President acting as if he is unchecked by the Constitution when
it comes to fighting wars and terrorism — and watched a Supreme Court
that might be far to willing to agree with him. We’ve also seen members of
Congress threaten to slash judiciary budgets and remove particular pieces
of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction (e.g., over flag-burning or Commandment-
placement). And, of course, we’ve seen a Supreme Court-nomination process
that was less than edifying in its attempts to control a candidate’s conduct
once on the bench. We should remember, therefore, that our Separation
and Balance of Powers do not work automatically. They need vigilance by
the public — perhaps, especially by the legal profession.

update (May 3, 2006): In an article in the May 2006 edition

of Washington Lawyer, A Defining Constitutional Moment,”

Bruce Fein sounds the alarm over the Bush Administration’s

claimed powers to order warrantless surveillance when

terrorism is involved. Fein says

If Congress flinches from its duty to reject

the legality of the president⦣x20AC;™s directive to the

National Security Agency (NSA) . . . a precedent

will have been set that will permanently cripple the

Constitution⦣x20AC;™s checks and balances. . . . Unless

rebuked, it will lie around like a loaded weapon,

ready to be used by any incumbent who claims

an urgent need.” (The Washington Lawyer, May



p.s. In case you think that Marbury v. Madison is well-understood
by the American publc, check out our “holy cow: of bull and manure
(Sept. 19, 2005). It seems that millions of Americans, unhappy with
Supreme Court decisions with which they disagree on “values” and

“morality” issues, agree with this statement from the group priests for life:

“This [Supreme] Court, which holds such an important place
in our system, is ¦#x201C;supreme¦#x201D; only in reference to the other
courts in the judicial branch of government, and not in
reference to the other branches! The President and the
Congress are just as capable of interpreting the Constitution
as is the Court. In fact, they are sworn to do so.”

So, the next time you — Mr. or Ms. Lawyer or Law Professor — are
asked, or can arrange, to speak to a group of adults or students
about the role of the judiciary in our governmental system, please
do it. The program materials on independent courts at the Law Day
2006 website are a good place to start your preparation.

infielderF While some worry about balance of power, my
haijin buddy
ed markowski, thinks of matters no less weighty:

– from Haiku Harvest (Spring – Summer 2006)

april rain…
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

spring equinox
i wash mother’s hair
with baby shampoo

sunday sunlight
somewhere, someone is praying
for the world to explode

– from Simply Haiku senryu page
(Featured Poet, Spring 2006 Vol. 4, No. 1)

new year’s day
like every other
we punch the clock

tax day
the soda machine
keeps my change

team reunion…
trying to recall
the catcher’s face

mediation day
the mediator’s hair
parted down the middle


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