A federal statute, 36 U.S. Code § 113, designates May 1 as Law Day, and is intended to “celebrate the ideals of equality and justice under law” and to help cultivate “respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.” In addition, each year the American Bar Associations identifies a suggested theme for Law Day events and discussions. This year it is “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change.”
These are fraught times for the lofty ideals underlying Law Day and the U.S. Constitution. Both in the United States and around the world, there are severe challenges to the pursuit of justice and the rule of law. And of course, the idealized version of America and our Constitution has always been part truth, part aspiration, and part fiction.
I often think about the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King (but actually originated by a 19th century abolitionist minister) that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I still believe in that sentiment. I would also say that it serves as the foundation for IAALS.
IAALS does its part every day to help make the United States a “more perfect union.” In the context of our work, that means trying to help make our systems of justice—particularly on the civil side—more accessible, fair, and effective. We’ve pursued this goal by:
- Seeking to better understand the nation’s justice needs in order to target reform efforts and ensure those needs are met;
- Ensuring the goals of judicial performance evaluation programs are fulfilled, modernized, and meet the needs of judges, the courts, and the public;
- Supporting, facilitating, and evaluating efforts to improve the regulation of legal services and expand access to those services; and
- Building successful lawyer foundations into the core of the legal profession through improved law school learning outcomes and better hiring practices.
The status quo is not working nearly well enough for millions of Americans. But progress is being made—unevenly, to be sure, but relentlessly.
On this Law Day, we should reflect on the shortcomings of our justice system and worry about the threats to democracy and the rule of law. But we should also celebrate the strides that have been made and the promise ahead. I hope you will join us in this essential work.