Updated: May 14, 2021
While the pandemic has continued to force most events to be held virtually, this has actually helped lawyers and judges reach more students to discuss civics. On April 27, 2021, the United States District Court and leaders from the South Florida, Broward County, and Palm Beach County Chapters of the Federal Bar Association brought Law Day to close to 1,000 students across three South Florida counties. The theme of this year’s Law Day was timelier than ever: “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”
Law Day is observed every year across the nation to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession. On February 3, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower established Law Day by proclamation, and in 1961, May 1st was designated by a joint resolution of Congress as the official date for celebrating Law Day.
While ordinarily Law Day is celebrated inside the courthouse, because of the pandemic and similar to last year, this year the Federal Court in the Southern District of Florida virtually brought Law Day to students from Hialeah Gardens Senior High School’s Law Academy and Barbara Goleman Senior High School’s Law Magnet & Law Society. While the program was presented to these two schools via Zoom, and students from these schools were actively engaged in in the program, other schools in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County observed the program via Zoom as well. Due to the overwhelming interest in the program and the ability to live stream the Zoom webinar, the program was presented to more students and schools via YouTube Live.
The discussion this year centered on the ABA theme, “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” This theme focused on the idea that all of us share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice. The students learned about the rule of law and how it applies to everyday life. They tested their knowledge of the rule of law with interactive polling questions and follow-up comments from the volunteer attorneys. The students also engaged in a spirited and thoughtful discussion about high-profile current events that have provided an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the rule of law in our country. At the end of the program, the students also were able ask Judge Bloom and the volunteer attorneys questions on any topic.
The event was coordinated by United States District Court Judge Beth Bloom, and Federal Bar Association South Florida Chapter Secretary and Civics Liaison Stephanie Turk, an associate at Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson. “The opportunity to reach such a wide number of students, reflect about the rule of law together, and engage in a spirited discussion about crucial current events that we have witnessed as a country was a unique experience. The students were very motivated to express themselves and contribute to a rich discussion,” Judge Bloom commented. “The level of the students’ engagement and their ability to articulate their reasoning regarding several current events topics involving the rule of law was inspiring,” Stephanie Turk added.
Additionally, attorney volunteers from each of the three local Federal Bar Association chapters helped facilitate discussions with the students: Stephanie Turk; Yisel Valdes; Jessica Neer McDonald; Jonathan Osborne; Alexis Fields; Andrew Lowenstein; and Andrew Kwan.
Dr. Derrick J. Johnson, Law Instructor at Hialeah Gardens Senior High School Academy of Law Studies, was also impressed with the program. “Judge Bloom and the volunteer attorneys afforded my students an excellent opportunity to explore the importance of the rule of law, as well as a unique opportunity to engage in a rich discussion about relevant topics in our nation today.”
Mock Trial Coach and Law Society Sponsor from Barbara Goleman Senior High School, Ms. Ana Soto-Gonzalez, similarly enjoyed the program. “My students were so engaged with the program topics that we continued the discussion the following class. Additionally, I appreciated that it provided my students with an opportunity to hear from attorneys that looked like them and had different backgrounds that my students could relate to and be inspired by. For many of my students this was the first time they spoke to a judge in person, and they felt very honored to be able to do this with Judge Bloom.”
Students who participated in the program also seemed to have enjoyed the program and learned a great deal. After the program, some students said the following about what they learned and took away from the experience:
“That no one is above the law and that it was created to protect our citizens.”
“That no matter what you can become a lawyer.”
“It was super cool, it was really an honor having Judge Bloom there, because it felt like us law students were really given an opportunity that not many can have, to meet a real judge and lawyers, it was a nice experience.”
“Rule of law ensures us citizens that no matter your status the law applies to everyone. Because of rule of law, we can have a safer mentality on situations, that we experience in our day-to-day life, like crossing the street or driving.”
“I learned to have more trust and confidence in law. With this trust I can go on about my day with my mind at ease knowing that if anything bad were to happen the law is always there to prevail justice.”
“It was a great opportunity to watch real judges and attorneys talk about issues going on right now.”
“I learned that if you put your work and dedication to what you love, you can achieve your goals and aspire to be what you want.”
“It was amazing how she [Judge Bloom] talked about things and the discussions really inspired me to learn and read more about this rule of law topic.”
“Until seeing the video it never crossed my mind how every part of our daily lives is influenced by the law. The example with buying a sandwich made me reconsider how important the law is for the most simple actions and as long as no one is above the law society functions the best it can.”
“Having a judge facilitate this discussion was really different and it was great.”
“I learned how case rulings may affect our lives and how we can learn from them in order to become a more civilized society.”
“That the harder you work and more prepared you are, the further you’ll get in life.”
“It is okay to have different opinions, as long as you respect others.”
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Law Day Quiz
1. The Rule of Law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are:
a. Publicly promulgated
b. Equally enforced
c. Independently adjudicated
d. Consistent with international human rights principles
e. All of the above
2. True or False: Our nation’s fundamental law is the Golden Rule.
3. True or False: When an individual becomes a citizen of the United States, the individual is required to take an oath to, among other things, support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.
4. In our Constitution, how many branches of government were created?
5. The courts, the judiciary, have the responsibility to _________ the laws.
6. True or False: The Constitution protects the impartiality of federal judges when they have to make unpopular decisions in order to follow the Rule of Law.
9. Are judges able to impose their personal beliefs on others when deciding issues before them?
8. True or False: Laws reflect the will of the people and the people consent to abide by the laws.
9. True or False: Laws are made in a private process and are not available to the public.
Answers below ...
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Quiz Answer Key:
2. b (Correct answer: Constitution.)
9. b (Correct answer: Laws are made in a public process and are available to the public.)