President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1, 1958, as the first Law Day to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law. Every year on this day we reflect on the significance of the rule of law and rededicate ourselves to promote public understanding of its importance to American democracy.
Law Day 2019, as designated by the American Bar Association, will focus on “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” and highlight the importance of free discourse as an important foundation of a free society. On this day, we are called on to understand and protect these rights to ensure, as the U.S. Constitution proposes, “the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”
In the United States and around the world, freedom of speech and the press are among the most important foundations for a free society. Free speech and free press are prominent topics in public discourse and litigation. It is impossible to imagine a free society without these individual liberties, yet historical and current debates surrounding them continually challenge us to consider their boundaries and resilience. Changes in technology have reshaped how free speech and free press work in the everyday world. Law Day 2019 offers the opportunity to explore this pair of freedoms by probing their history and considering their future. Should all speech be “free?” What is the role of government in regulating or protecting the press? Should speech or the press be constrained through laws or norms? Can a free society exist without free speech and free press?As Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center recently noted, “Americans need to keep in mind that a free press is the ultimate defender of our personal liberties. The transparency and information-sharing it provides are essential to a functioning representative democracy.”
Please plan on joining us at the historic Sussex County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 1st, at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate Law Day, 2019.
Janine M. Cerra, Esquire
President, Sussex County Bar Association