By U.S. Army Garrison SJAApril 29, 2011
Every May 1, Americans celebrate Law Day, giving them an opportunity to reflect on the rule of law and the foundations of our legal system. It's a time for citizens to celebrate the history of America's judicial system and to consider its future.
On Law Day, Americans from all walks of life, public figures and private individuals, reaffirm in words and deeds their shared national allegiance to the rule of law. Citizens must recognize our legal institutions and system of justice depend on popular participation and support to maintain legitimate authority.
Lawyers and judges should recognize they bear a special responsibility to foster public understanding of law and legal institutions and commitment to the rule of law.
This year's theme is The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo. The theme provides individuals an opportunity to explore the historical and contemporary role of lawyers in defending the rights of the accused, renew their understanding of and appreciation for the fundamental principle of the rule of law and also celebrate the legacy of John Adams, America's first lawyer-president in 1797.
Adams, who despite being a resistance leader, patriot, advocate, diplomat, constitutional theorist and political activist, represented the British officer and soldiers charged with firing into a crowd of protesters and killing five civilians in the Boston Massacre five years before the American Revolutionary War began.
Although a prominent leader in the American colonial resistance to British parliamentary authority, Adams agreed to take on the cases and ably defended the accused at trial.
His role in the 1770 Boston Massacre trials has come to be seen as a model of adherence to the rule of law and defense of the rights of the accused, even in cases when advocates may represent unpopular clients and become involved in matters that generate public controversy.
Although each is unique in circumstance and significance, there have been other such noteworthy cases in American history. Recent examples of these types of cases include the representation by Michael Tigar and Brian Hermanson of Terry Nichols in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case and lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees in the global war on terrorism.
It is important to recognize that the passage of time can bring historical and legal perspective to passions of the day. On May 1, the Fort McPherson Office of the Staff Judge Advocate encourages everyone to discuss these important issues and to reflect on the importance of the rule of law.