In 1961, Congress officially designated May 1 as Law Day (36 U.S.C.§ 113):
§113. Law Day, U.S.A.
(a) Designation. May 1 is Law Day, U.S.A.
(b) Purpose.-Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States-
(1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and
(2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.
Each year, the American Bar Association selects a theme for the Law Day celebration. This year’s theme is: Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law, in recognition of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta:
Perhaps more than any other document in human history, Magna Carta has come to embody a simple but enduring truth: No one, no matter how powerful, is above the law.
In the eight centuries that have elapsed since Magna Carta was sealed in 1215, it has taken root as an international symbol of the rule of law and as an inspiration for many basic rights Americans hold dear today, including due process, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and the right to travel.
As we mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, join us on Law Day, May 1, 2015, to commemorate this “Great Charter of Liberties,” and rededicate ourselves to advancing the principle of rule of law here and abroad.
Learn more about this year’s Law Day:
In 1992, sparked by public outcry about the concealment of documents related to President Kennedy’s assassination, Congress passed and President Bush signed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992, Public Law 102-526.
The Act appears as a note to 44 U.S.C. § 2107. When enacted the statute required, in part, that the National Archives and Records Administration establish The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection “to consist of record copies of all Government records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”
Today, 50 years after President Kennedy’s death, the collection includes millions of pages of assassination-related records, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings and artifacts, and continues to grow.
President John F. Kennedy, July 11, 1963
Cecil Stoughton Photographer, NARA Collection
This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the document states, in part:
. . . [O]n the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom . . . .
Lincoln invoked his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief to institute a necessary war measure against the rebellion of southern states. The “military necessity” was to deprive the rebelling states of labor resources thereby weakening the Confederate Army. (See Act of Justice: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War, by Burrus M. Carnahan, for a detailed discussion of Lincoln’s legal theory).
Some interesting resources about Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation include:
On Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated pursuant to a proclamation issued by President George Washington. An 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. 21 9:00am-5:00pm, References Services available 9:00am-2:00pm
- Thurs. Nov. 22 Closed
- Fri. Nov. 23 Closed
- Sat. Nov. 24 Noon-6:00pm
- Sun. Nov. 26 Regular Hours resume: 11:00am-11:00pm, Reference Services Available 2:00pm-9:00pm
Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!
Presidential documents most often used for legal research include Executive Orders, Proclamations, and Signing Statements. GMU patrons have access to a number of resources for locating these and other presidential documents, including HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library. This collection includes:
- Compilation of Presidential Documents (1965-): Published by the Office of the Federal Register this compilation includes Proclamations, Executive orders, Communications to Congress and Federal agencies, Signing Statements, Appointments and Nominations, Speeches, Press conferences, and Press Releases. Also available on FDsys(1993-)
- Public Papers of the Presidents (Hoover 1929-) Published by the Office of the Federal Register, includes writings, papers, and remarks. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s papers, published separately, are also included in the Presidential Library). Also available on FDsys (Bush 1991-)
- CFR Title 3 (1936-) Executive Orders and Proclamations are codified here. Also available on FDsys (1996-)
- Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington-Hoover) Includes annual, veto, and special messages.
Other useful resources include the Government Printing Office (FDsys) (coverage noted above) and the American Presidency Project which also provides varied coverage of the documents above as well as election-related documents and video.