Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Law Week 2015: Magna Carta, the Symbol of Freedom Under Law

By Alexandra Haddad

Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, once said, "Where justice is concerned, the principles of Magna Carta are a reference to which we should always return to ensure that we are proceeding in the right direction."  

On June 15, 1215, King John of England was forced to affix his seal to Magna Carta by a group of barons who wanted to ensure their rights and property against a tyrannical king. Although the interests of the common man were not at the forefront of the drafters' minds, there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:
"No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."

"To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice."
During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served as an inspiration to act in liberty's defense. One of those rights is that no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Those rights guaranteed by Magna Carta were embedded into the laws of the colonists' states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Today, Magna Carta has taken root as an international symbol of the rule of law and as an inspiration for basic rights Americans hold dear, including due process, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and the right to travel.

This year's Law Week theme is "Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law." As we approach the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Law Week's aim is to reflect on the importance of a citizen's most basic rights, the rule of law, and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have access to justice.  

Law Week will take place this year from March 16 through 20. Law Week volunteers will educate local youth on Magna Carta and the development of the rule of law in the United States.  Law Week provides opportunities for attorneys all across Hillsborough County to break away from their daily routines to reach out to local students through three types of activities: courthouse tours, classroom discussions, and mock trials.

The courthouse tours involve leading groups of students through courtrooms and other areas of the courthouse to give them a glimpse of the rule of law in action. Classroom discussions involve traveling to a local school to lead a class or group of students in a discussion on the law and answer student questions. Finally, volunteers who participate in mock trials team up in groups of two and work with students in presenting a student-friendly case. Participating schools are located throughout the county, and volunteer attorneys are welcome to participate in any of the three activities available.

To learn more about Law Week 2015 or volunteering, please contact Young Lawyers Division Law Week Committee Co-Chairs Amy Nath (anath@shrinenet.org), Maja Lacevic (Maja.Lacevic@csklegal.com), or Alex Haddad (ahaddad@burr.com).