Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But what exactly is this document?
The Declaration of Independence is printed in Statutes at Large. It is included in the the United States Code as one of “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” It has been mentioned periodically in Supreme Court decisions. Not surprisingly, the relevance of this document has been the subject of some debate in the legal academy. “Declaration of Independence” as a title search in HeinOnline will yield several articles.
Visit the National Archives website to view images of the Declaration of Independence and to read a brief history of this document. The original is housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. You can also view a 1998 video of then members of the Supreme Court reading the complete text.
The law library will be closed on July 4th in observance of Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks!
In observance of Memorial Day, the law library will be closed Sunday, May 25 and Monday, May 26.
A brief Memorial Day History is available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Website. Also of interest may be two famous Memorial Day speeches delivered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, one in 1884 and the other addressed to the graduating class at Harvard Law School in 1895. PDFs of these speeches are available using The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises Database (GMUSL users may link to this database here).
And where is Memorial Day officially designated a Federal holiday? Title 36 of the United States Code includes statutes relating to “Patriotic and National Observances.” 36 U.S.C. § 116 designates the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.
February is Black History Month.This year’s theme—Civil Rights in America—honors the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241), which became law on July 2, 1964.The Act prohibited discrimination in public places, banned segregation in schools,and made employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin illegal. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
GMUSL’s Chapter of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and the Law Library have partnered to honor this landmark legislation. Please take a few moments to view a special presentation in the library display case near the atrium.
Black History Month was founded by the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH) at Howard University. For more information, visit the ASALH website.
In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Law Library will closed on Monday, January 20.
The MLK holiday became federal law fifteen years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. The holiday was first observed in 1986, but it took another 17 years for nationwide recognition. In 1994, the holiday was designated a day of service under the direction of the Corporation for National and Community Service. For resources about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visit the King Center Website.
Photo by Scott Ableman
On Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated pursuant to a proclamation issued by President George Washington. A 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as the regular date for this celebration.
That tradition continued until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the holiday would be celebrated on the second to last Thursday of November that year (November 23, 1939). Roosevelt was responding to pressure from retailers to expand the Christmas shopping season.This change sparked controversy and angered some football coaches, whose season was scheduled according to the holiday. There was also a a split among states, 32 issuing proclamations following the President but 16 others refusing to change the date. See H.R. Rep. No.77-1186, at 1 (1941) (available to GMU patrons on Proquest Congressional)
Two years later, on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a joint congressional resolution, known as the Thanksgiving Day Act (55 Stat. 862) establishing Thanksgiving as a Federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.
In observance of the Thanksgiving Holiday, the law library will have reduced hours:
- Wed. Nov. 27 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, References Services 9:00 am-12:00 pm
- Thurs. Nov. 28 Closed
- Fri. Nov. 29 Closed
- Sat. Nov. 30 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Sun. Dec. 1 10:00 am -11:00 pm, Reference Services 2:00 pm-9:00 pm
Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!
Pursuant to 5 USC § 6103, Veterans Day is November 11 each year. GMUSL has a special commitment to serving our country’s veterans. Since 2004, the law school has provided a Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers and Veterans (CLASV):
The clinic enables Mason law students to represent servicemembers and veterans in a wide variety of litigation and non-litigation matters. Since its inception, clinic students have assisted over 70 clients from all five branches of the armed services, in litigation, adjudication and negotiation regarding consumer protection, administrative and military law and entitlements (TSGLI, PEB Boards and discharge upgrade appeals), family law, bankruptcy, immigration, landlord-tenant, contract, estate and entitlement matters in federal and state forums.
Students interested in CLASV will find additional information here.
Halloween can be a catalyst for unique lawsuits. A 2011 article in the New York State Bar Association Journal, titled Case Law from the Crypt: The Law of Halloween summarizes some of these strange cases.
In one case, the plaintiff alleged that a neighbor’s holiday decorations—which included an “‘Insane Asylum’ directional sign pointed towards the plaintiff’s house” and a tombstone referencing the plaintiff— were “defamatory, harassing, and caused emotional distress.” In addition to claims involving Halloween decorations, other cases have involved injury to persons or property and provocative costumes in the workplace.
In her book, Halloween Law, Law Professor Victoria Sutton calls Justice Scalia the “father of Halloween Law.” During oral argument in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006), held on October 31, 2005, a light bulb exploded loudly. This led to the following exchange:
Justice Scalia: Light bulb went out.
Chief Justice Roberts: It’s a trick they play on new justices all the time.
Justice Scalia: Happy Halloween.
Justice Ginsburg: That’s the idea
Justice Roberts: Take your time.
Justice Scalia: We’re even more in the dark now than before.
Listen to the Oral Argument on Oyez.org here (explosion at 42:59).
Tuesday, September 17 is the 226th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Pursuant to 36 U.S.C. §106, September 17 is designated as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”, and under 36 U.S.C. §108, the President is requested to “designate the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 as ‘Constitution Week.’”
Useful resources about the U.S. Constitution include:
- American Memory (Library of Congress) Find documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (1774-1789), includes images of original documents and related materials.
- Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution.
- LII: CRS Annotated Constitution Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides links to Supreme Court opinions, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations.
- National Archives Images of original documents and historical information.
The law library will be closed on Thursday, July 4 and Friday, July 5.The library will reopen on Saturday, July 6 at 10 am.
Enjoy the holiday!
In 1961, Congress officially designated May 1 as Law Day (36 U.S.C.113). Each year, the American Bar Association selects a theme for the Law Day celebration. This year’s theme is Realizing the Dream: Equality for All:
The promise of equality under the law is what has made America a beacon to other nations. It is a pledge clearly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the opening words of the Preamble of the Constitution, “We the People.” It is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the proposition to which our nation is dedicated.
The year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1963, during the Proclamation’s centennial, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and called upon our nation to live up to the great promise, enshrined in its founding documents, of equality for all. Five decades later, the inspirational words of Rev. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech continue to resonate and challenge us to live up to our national ideal of equality under the law. The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement can be seen in the strides that have been made against discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
Law Day, May 1, 2013, will provide an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. It will provide a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Rev. Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”