Law Day 2012: Understanding today’s difficulties in the legal court systems

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jessica Voris-Jacquay
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Legal Office
For most people, having access to civil courts or speedy criminal trials seems unimportant--until they are the ones who lose their home or get arrested. Law Day reminds us that even though the justice system does so much to support American citizens, it also needs support--from state and national lawmakers who are in charge of funding programs that keep the doors of the courthouse open to all. I hope you spent a few minutes this Law Day to think about what would happen if you needed the help of a judge but were told you would have to wait a month or longer to fix your legal problem.

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the first Law Day on May 1, 1958, he intended to strengthen and celebrate America's commitment to the rule of law.

When Congress issued a joint resolution making Law Day official, they wrote that Law Day should be a time for the people of the United States to cultivate, "the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life," and to appreciate the liberties America's justice system makes possible. Law Day was meant to highlight the importance that an open and independent court system had to this nation's founding fathers, and how it continues to protect individual liberties today.

However, this year's Law Day theme, "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom," was a call to action. The theme reflects the crisis in this nation's courts that has gone largely unnoticed by people outside the legal community. Like other government programs feeling the strain of budget shortfalls, many courts have had to make cutbacks, laying off employees and closing courtrooms. Judges and court staff do what they can to deliver the same access to justice that people expect, but this nation's economic distress means that more families than ever need the help of the court system. The volume of home foreclosures, bankruptcies and criminal cases inundating the courts has continued to rise. When courts are flooded, vulnerable populations can get lost in the shuffle.

To help us all understand: "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom," the American Bar Association reminds us that "strong, effective and independent justice systems are a core element of our democracy. Even the most eloquent constitution is worthless with no one to enforce it."