(Editors' note: The author, Andrew Garner, is an attorney and member of the Augusta Bar Association and the Young Lawyers of Augusta. He clerks for Judges Carl C. Brown Jr. and J. Carlisle Overstreet of the Augusta Judicial Circuit.)
INSCRIBED ABOVE the judge's bench in the Superior Courtroom in Augusta are the following words: "Justice is the idea of God, the ideal of man, and the rule of conduct writ in the nature of mankind." Likewise, governments and laws are established by mankind to pursue justice, and thus ensure peace and order.
In declaring their independence from the British Empire in 1776, our forefathers recognized the need to establish a system of laws in which the pursuit of equal justice is the highest priority. They committed themselves, and the Republic that they founded, to the idea that all persons, regardless of race, creed or social status, are deserving of equal justice under the law. Furthermore, the founding fathers recognized that freedom can exist only if justice is fairly administered.
A radical experiment in government resulted. For the first time in history, a group of individuals crafted a body of law designed to ensure that justice would be dispensed equally to all people and that freedom would abound.
THE PRINCIPLE of equal justice cannot be achieved without law. In short, the law is the glue that holds our nation together.
President Eisenhower recognized this when he established Law Day in 1958. Every spring since then, on May 1, Americans have celebrated the law and the vital role it plays in perpetuating the ideal of equal justice and freedom. The theme for Law Day 2000 is "Celebrating Your Freedom through Diversity."
In light of the importance of the law, it is also imperative on Law Day to recognize those who are trained to understand the law and make it work. Even attorneys enjoy a good lawyer joke on occasion, but at the same time it is important that we value the contribution that attorneys make to our nation.
In Shakespeare's play Henry VI Dick the Butcher exclaims, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." This phrase is commonly used in a light-hearted way to poke fun at those in the legal profession.
BUT THE CONTEXT of this quote indicates the vital role that attorneys play in protecting the freedoms we enjoy. This character is actually stating what should be the first aim of the peasants if their revolt is to be successful -- the killing of all lawyers. In other words, lawyers are the chief protectors of justice, freedom and order in a society of laws.
It is appropriate that the Augusta Bar Association take an active role in leading our community in the celebration of Law Day 2000.
In cooperation with the Augusta Bar Association, the Young Lawyers of Augusta have scheduled a host of community events this week to celebrate Law Day and promote the theme of "Freedom through Diversity." On Friday, the annual Jawbones vs. Sawbones basketball game will pit local doctors and lawyers against one another to raise money for the Domestic Violence Intervention Center of the Central Savannah River Area. Several educational events have been scheduled as well. A poster contest will be held in local elementary schools while middle school students are encouraged to enter an essay contest. Members of the Augusta Bar will be featured as guest speakers of local high schools.
THE WEEK will be highlighted by a banquet hosted by the Augusta Bar Association at which the Liberty Bell award will be presented to a local citizen whose work has made a significant contribution to the community. This award is reserved for those not involved with the legal profession.
The Augusta Bar Association challenges everyone to join them in the celebration of Law Day 2000. If nothing else, take a few moments this week to contemplate the rights guaranteed to all as enumerated in both the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the State of Georgia.
It is the hope of the Augusta Bar that during this Law Day week citizens of this community will be possessed with a new-found respect for these liberties and all the other rights we enjoy as citizens of both the State of Georgia and the United States of America. In addition, the Augusta Bar Association urges citizens to reflect on the vital role that the law plays in ensuring equal justice, and thus freedom, for all.