Oklahoma Bar Journal
Law Day 2021: Advancing the Rule of Law – Pandemic Edition
By Ed Wunch
What a year it has been! On March 9, 2020, I submitted my Law Day article for the April bar journal. On March 12, I was honored to host our student contest winners at the Supreme Court Courtroom at the Capitol with Chief Justice Gurich and 2020 OBA President Susan Shields. And then, on March 16, 2020, the Supreme Court issued its first emergency directive. In just a month, my article in the April bar journal became quite anachronistic.
While many Law Day events in 2020 were canceled or changed, what did not change was the Oklahoma Bar’s commitment to serving the public. For Law Day in 2020, we moved Ask a Lawyer to a virtual format, answering many questions by email. I am incredibly grateful to the over 100 attorneys who volunteered their time to answer the public’s questions in very uncertain times. I am especially grateful to Katheryn Bell and Dan Crawford for their time and leadership as we moved to the email-only format only a month before the event. However, 2020’s Ask A Lawyer was only one of countless examples we’ve seen of colleagues meeting the increased demand and unique needs of their clients and the public and advancing justice in their work.
That brings us to 2021’s Law Day theme: “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” As articulated by Will Gunn, 2021 National Law Day Chair for the ABA, the rule of law is the foundation of America.1 When so much of our daily lives is changed by a pandemic, we turn to our fundamental institutions for reassurance that we will get through this. The rule of law is what gives us faith in these institutions. However, the rule of law is not self-sustaining. It requires each of us to fight for justice and against injustice wherever we see it.
As we all continue that fight, the OBA Law Day Committee voted to move the OBA’s celebrations of Law Day to this fall. This should give us the opportunity to hold more traditional Law Day events, hopefully returning to seeing many of you in person as we go back to holding phone banks at OETA studios and answering the public’s questions as we recover from the pandemic. We are currently targeting a late September or early October date, and we hope to announce that date soon.
While we continue to plan 2021’s Law Day activities, I am incredibly grateful for the support of Chief Justice Richard Darby and President Mike Mordy as we continue Oklahoma’s long tradition of honoring Law Day through educating the public and giving back to our communities.
CONTESTS AND ACTIVITIES
The OBA received entries from 1,288 students from across the state focused on this year’s theme, “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” We built on last year’s success receiving many entries from the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, as well as many other communities around the state. This is also a testament to the amazing teachers we have around the state who have done a wonderful job supporting Oklahoma’s children during these unusual times.
While an in-person recognition of the student winners is not possible this year, we will be holding a virtual winner’s ceremony with President Mike Mordy and Chief Justice Richard Darby, and first-place winners will receive their plaques. Additionally, I am grateful to the Appellate Practice Section for their sponsorship of the Law Day Contest, as we award approximately $4,000 in total to 54 winners from around Oklahoma. See the names of all the winners and their winning entries online at www.okbar.org/lawday or in this issue.
One of the many benefits of moving Law Day to this fall is that we have TWO opportunities to celebrate Law Day this year. The ABA will still celebrate Law Day around May 1, and several county bar associations will still hold events in May and June. This is in addition to the statewide Law Day celebrations we are planning this fall, which will include the return of Ask A Lawyer on OETA.
To stay up to date on Law Day activities we are planning for this fall, I encourage you to visit our website at www.okbar.org/lawday, where we will post updates later this year.
Until then, if you are looking for ways to volunteer your legal services, I encourage you to volunteer through two programs supported by the OBA:
- Free Legal Answers is a national program supported by the ABA. Oklahoma attorneys volunteer their time to answer civil legal questions from low-income Oklahomans via the Free Legal Answers website. There is no minimum time commitment, and you are not committed to providing anything beyond one answer. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service annually recognizes those attorneys who answer more than 50 questions through the program. Find out more at https://oklahoma.freelegalanswers.org.
- Lawyers for America’s Heroes is an OBA program to provide pro bono legal advice and assistance to qualifying veterans, retirees, active service members, guard members and reserve members. Since 2010, hundreds of Oklahoma lawyers have helped thousands and thousands of members of our military through the Heroes program. To join your colleagues in supporting this program, or find out more, visit https://okbarheroes.org/volunteer.
As always, I am honored to be able to support the great volunteer work of OBA members across the state. If you have ideas on how to improve Law Day or want more information, please contact me directly at email@example.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ed Wunch is a staff attorney with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. He serves as the OBA’s 2021 Law Day Committee chair. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
COUNTY BAR LAW DAY EVENTS
The Pushmataha County Bar Association will host Call A Lawyer on May 6 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Oklahomans can call 580-298-5082 for free legal advice. Lawyers volunteering will have a wide range of knowledge.
The Tulsa County Bar Association is embracing the theme “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” in which every person is treated equally under the law and that no one is above the law. The TCBA’s celebration is two-fold this year. First, the Tulsa community is commemorating 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Bar members are encouraged to attend those events remembering the injustice, lives, economic loss and devastation of a community. Their Law Day celebration is also a call to action because attorneys share the responsibility to promote the rule of law – answering the call to defend liberty and pursue justice.
Presented by the Tulsa County Bar Foundation, a virtual symposium and Law Day presentation will be held April 30, beginning at 9 a.m. Topics of the two sessions will be “Avoiding Unintentional Exclusivity: How the Language We Use Matters (Even When We Don’t Mean It That Way)” and “Let’s Talk About IT: Avoiding Micro-Aggressions and Managing Implicit Bias.” The Law Day presentation will feature the announcements of the winners of the annual Liberty Bell Award, Brunton-Will CLE Award and Sandra Day O’Connor Award. Plus, there will be a special presentation from keynote speakers Phil Armstrong and Hannibal Johnson, from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. Go to www.TulsaBar.com for more information.
Send details about your county Law Day event to LawDay@okbar.org. Information will be posted to the Law Day website.
- American Bar Association, Law Day 2021: Advancing the Rule of Law Now. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8corPWv79Xo.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 92 Vol 4 (April 2021)