Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 3, 2015

A day to celebrate: May 1

Raising the Bar

Lynda Minks Hood

This year, we have the fortunate opportunity to have Egil “Bud” Krogh as our honored guest speaker for Law Day 2015. The luncheon will be held at the Chattanooga Convention Center at noon.

In addition to speaking to the attorneys and judges and area business leaders at our lunch event, he will also speak to area high school seniors the morning of May 1 at the Frierson Theatre, located at Girls Preparatory School, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Law Day, USA, is set aside each year on May 1 by a joint resolution of Congress and presidential proclamation as an occasion for honoring the place of law in our lives. It is not a national holiday, nor is it a lawyer’s day; rather, Law Day is an occasion for all Americans to learn more about our law, our legal system, and our rights. It’s also a day to reflect on our legal heritage, our responsibilities as citizens, and the principles of our democratic government.

The theme for Law Day 2015 is “Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law.” Perhaps more than any other document in human history, the Magna Carta has come to embody a simple but enduring truth: No one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. In the eight centuries that have elapsed since the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215, it’s taken root as an international symbol of the rule of law and as an inspiration for many basic rights Americans hold dear today, including due process, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and the right to travel. As we mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, join us on Law Day, May 1, 2015, to commemorate this “Great Charter of Liberties” and rededicate ourselves to advancing the principle of rule of law here and abroad.

The story of the Magna Carta began at Runnymeade in England in 1215, and has continued for 800 years. It is a story of the Rule of Law tradition and how the American system of government is derived from our English legal heritage.

Here are some interesting points about the Magana Carta:

The Magna Carta resulted from negotiations between King John and insubordinate English aristocrats on the brink of the civil war.

It was handwritten in Latin on a single piece of 18-inch sheepskin parchment, and is less than 4,000 words.

A would-be peace treaty between the king and the rebellious nobles, the 1215 charter did not survive its year of issue. Pope Innocent III annulled the charter within 10 weeks of its issuance. In the midst of virtual civil war, King John suddenly died in October 1216. The charter was then reissued on behalf of the new king, John’s nine-year-old son, Henry III. This Magna Carta was substantially revised and shortened to about 2,500 words. A second reissue was made in 1217 and a third in 1225. The 1225 issue was the version incorporated into English law in 1297. 

“Magna Carta” means “Great Charter” in Latin. After it was first revised in 1216, a separate charter of the forests, spun off and expanded from the 1215 document, was issued. To differentiate the first charter from the second, the former became known, in 1218, as Magna CartaLibertatum (Great Charter of Liberties) or, simply, Magna Carta.

There are multiple Magna Carta manuscripts that can claim to be originals. This is a matter of historical circumstance, tradition, and scholarly conventions. In addition to the four 1215 first issues, there survive one from 1216 and four more each from 1217, 1225, and 1297. Just two of these 17 are outside England, both dating to 1297. They are in the national capitals of Australia (Canberra) and the United States—the latter is publicly displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 

After 1300, the Magna Carta was not reissued (physically produced and disseminated across the realm) but simply “confirmed.” English kings confirmed Magna Carta dozens of times in the centuries following the thirteenth, corroborating its status as an exemplary written charter of good governance and recognition of the lawful liberties of English subjects.

In the seventeenth century, English jurist Edward Coke interpreted the Magna Carta to be part of an “ancient Constitution” that preserved the rights of English subjects, protected by a representative parliament, against the claims of absolutist monarchs. By the eighteenth century, the uncodified British Constitution was seen as including not only key texts from the prior century (the 1628 Petition of Right, authored by Coke; the Habeas Corpus Act 1679; and the 1689 English Bill of Rights), but also the Magna Carta itself—invoked to trace back the deep roots of British constitutionalism.

The eighteenth-century English jurist William Blackstone developed a numbering convention for the Magna Carta, which we follow today. By tradition, the various short sections are commonly called “chapters.” The 1215 Magna Carta has 63 chapters and the shorter 1225 version, just 37. The famous, oft-cited clause that begins “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned,” which appears in all issues, is numbered chapter 39 in the 1215 Magna Carta and 29 in the abbreviated 1225 issue.

The 1215 issue of Magna Carta from Lincoln Cathedral became the first charter to travel outside the United Kingdom in 1939 when it came to the United States for display at the New York World’s Fair and then remained in Washington, D.C., for safekeeping throughout World War II.

The Magna Carta has been cited in over 170 U.S. Supreme Court opinions, according to American University law professor Stephen Wermiel, who analyzed 224 years of U.S. Reports of Supreme Court decisions. Of these 170 cases, 28 percent concern due process of law; 13 percent, trial by jury; 8 percent concern how Magna Carta influenced American constitutionalism; 6 percent each treat antitrust matters and habeas corpus; 5 percent concern other civil rights and liberties; and 4 percent each treat cruel and unusual punishment and excessive fines.

Unlike no other historical document, the Magna Carta symbolizes our deep- rooted tradition of constitutional governance and its associated “rule of law” values. These are commonly understood to mean “no ruler is above the law” and used in the granting of political and legal rights in writing. Rule of law is often contrasted with rule that’s capricious, unprincipled, and inconstant.

The future of our nation is in the hands of our young people. We all can and should play a role in assuring America’s future by addressing the needs of youth and by focusing on the issues affecting them today. Many young people will come into contact with the legal system, whether through family court, foster care, or the juvenile justice system. In addition, all youth need to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law to become effective participants in our nation’s civic life. How fitting to have Krogh as our speaker this year for Law Day.

In 1971, Krogh, a 31-year-old White House deputy counsel, was tasked with finding and stopping security leaks, and became head of the Special Investigations Unit. Krogh and associates familiarly became known as the “White House Plumbers.”

He authorized the burglary of Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office in an attempt to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who released his Pentagon Papers without authorization. Krogh says it was his loyalty to the presidency and his belief that national security was at stake that led him to authorize the break in and lie to cover it up. In 1973, before any other involved parties admitted wrongdoing, Krogh spoke up.

Of the various White House-based conspirators, Krogh alone pled guilty and refused to trade inside information for a reduced sentence. He was disbarred and went to prison. In 1980, Krogh successfully petitioned to be readmitted to the bar and has been in practice since. 

In “Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons from the White House,” Krogh tells his story of from rising young presidential counsel, to his indictment and prison sentence, to his redemption and the power of choosing to do what’s right.

In January 2009, Krogh joined the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress as a senior fellow on leadership, ethics, and integrity. Part of the Center’s mission is to promote “civility, character, and inclusive public leadership.” Krogh will contribute to the ethics training initiative for political appointees and to the National Consortium for Character-Based Leadership, which focuses on ethics and leadership for young people.

If you plan to attend, we must have your paid reservation by April 24, 2015. The cost is $40 per person, and includes lunch and .50 DUAL hour of continuing legal education credit. Also, a representative from the Professional Education Group will be on site to sell Krogh’s book at a cost of $20 per copy.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you May 1st at the Annual Luncheon as we celebrate the law! 

Source: Some material by the Law Day Planning Guide. 

WATCH YOUR MAIL for the 2015 CBA Pictorial Directory coming in the April 2015 issue of Edge Magazine.