News - Capital University Law School

Law Day 2017 Celebrates the 14th Amendment

5/1/2017  - 

Law Day, held annually on May 1, is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day underscores how law and the legal process contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share and also provides an opportunity to recognize the role of courts in a constitutional democracy.

Law Day originated in 1957 when ABA President Charles S. Rhyne, a Washington, D.C. attorney, envisioned a special day for celebrating our legal system. Beginning in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day as a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law and Congress, by joint resolution, designated May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day in 1961.

The Law Day 2017 theme is “The Fourteenth Amendment: Transforming American Democracy.” Stephanie Parker, National Law Day Chair, noted that the 2017 theme “recognizes the milestone anniversary of this transformative amendment that serves as the cornerstone of landmark civil rights legislation, the foundation for court decisions protecting fundamental rights, and a source of inspiration for those who advocate for equal justice under law.”

An Overview of the 14th Amendment

The Text and Its Application
The text of the Fourteenth Amendment is often cited by litigators, civil rights activists, constitutional scholars, and, of course, judges. Here, we take a look at the most cited clauses and offer avenues to explore how they have shaped our constitutional understanding and our everyday experiences. Law Day 2017 gives us a unique opportunity to look at the text of the amendment and explore its origins, evolution, and current application.

The Citizenship and the Privileges or Immunities Clauses
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…

The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment generally confers legal citizenship on all persons born in the United States and indicates that whether natural-born or naturalized, they are citizens of both the United States and the state in which they live. This simple statement transformed a divided nation coming out of the shadow of the Civil War and a legacy of slavery. The second sentence of Section 1 of the amendment, the privileges or immunities clause, prohibits states from infringing rights of U.S.
citizens. Since the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873, however, the federal courts have narrowly interpreted these rights.

The Due Process Clause

…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires state and local governments to administer fair and just legal proceedings. The clause provides a safeguard against arbitrary laws or unjust court proceedings. As courts, judges, and constitutional scholars have studied the clause, two aspects of due process have emerged: procedural and substantive. Procedural due process generally refers to those procedures that guarantee a fair trial before an individual can be deprived of life, liberty, or property, such as the right to a jury, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to a speedy trial. Substantive due process is a principle allowing courts to protect individuals from government interference of certain rights deemed fundamental, such as the right to privacy and the right to marry.

The Equal Protection Clause
…nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from discriminating against individuals or groups and advances constitutional equality.

This information and explanation was made available by the American Bar Association National Law Day Planning Guide. For more information, see LAW DAY 2017.