AUBURN — The DeKalb County Bar Association presented a program on the American legal system to senior students at all local high schools in honor of Law Day.
Local lawyers spoke to the students on Friday and used a quiz on various current legal issues to spark discussion.
The DeKalb Bar Association has made this annual presentation since 1978, when DeKalb County won a national award for the program. The presentation has been updated several times to address current issues. This year’s program was organized by Barbara Molargik-Fitch and Jacqueline Delagrange. Eight local lawyers spoke.
Law Day was created to distinguish the United States from authoritarian regimes such as the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower declared May 1 Law Day in 1958. Subsequently, the US Congress reaffirmed this designation, “For the culture of law abidance which is so vital to the democratic way of life.”
In 1978, the American Bar Association had asked local bar associations to submit their unique projects that could be shared with other associations.
Local attorney Jeff Turner explained: “A couple of us – Kirk Carpenter and I, and maybe someone else – thought about what might be a good project and came up with the idea. to have a quiz in local schools on different parts of the law that would be of interest to high school students. Then we contacted all the local school district social studies departments, and they were very enthusiastic. »
“There was no monetary award, but the ABA would select a large, medium, and small bar association award for the most impactful programs. The DeKalb Bar’s Law Day Quiz project was selected as the winner for the Small Bar Associations section. We were then invited by the New Jersey Bar Association (because they read it in the ABA Journal) to come to their annual meeting to give a presentation on Law Day projects,” added Turner.
The award hung in the DeKalb County Courthouse for many years.
“I remember as a high school student going to this Law Day program in 1982. At that time, retired federal magistrate Paul Cherry was a young lawyer running for prosecutor, and I remember him talking to my government class at DeKalb High School. It got me thinking about becoming a prosecutor,” DeKalb County District Attorney ClaraMary Winebrenner said.
After 44 years, not only have the laws changed, but so have the students.
“It is surprising that over the years students have become much more aware of their rights as consumers, of domestic relations law (due to the increase in divorces and births out of wedlock) and of rights in criminal proceedings,” Turner said. “It also seems that students are less aware of the story of America’s birth and the origin of our law. Students also seem less aware of the dangers of socialism and/or communist forms of government. They do not fully appreciate the freedoms that our legal system guarantees that other countries simply do not have.