Law Day honors Magna Carta anniversary

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Attorney Jason Davis speaks during Law Day ceremonies Friday on the grounds of Marshall County Courthouse.

By John I. Carney

Staff writer

Judicial and law enforcement personnel from Marshall County observed Law Day, May 1, with a ceremony on the courthouse steps.

"The law is only as powerful as those who recognize it," said attorney Jason Davis, president of Marshall County Bar Association.

Marshall County Bar Association announced a new program that will place a laptop at the courthouse for the public to use to look up answers to common legal questions, while local art students were honored for their entries in the American Bar Association Law Day Art Contest.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency brought its mobile exhibit to the event. The connection between hunting and the legal protections commemorated by Law Day goes back to the Magna Carta. Barons forced King John to sign the document, which guaranteed fundamental rights, in the year 1215, 800 years ago. The document had an influence on the U.S. Constitution and the justice system in general. Prior to the Magna Carta, all forest lands belonged to the king, and citizens could be put to death for hunting the king's deer. But two years after the Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest prohibited anyone from losing "life or limb because of our venison."

The ceremony began at 12:15, a reference to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta anniversary.

Law Day itself dates back to 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed the first of May as a national day to celebrate the rule of law.

Marshall County High School art teacher Kelsey Whaley coordinated submissions by her students to the American Bar Association's Law Day Art Contest. The works of art submitted to the national contest have been returned, although the winners haven't yet been announced.

The local entries were judged on Friday by a panel consisting of Circuit Court judges Lee Russell and Forest Durard, Chancellor J.B. Cox, and Lewisburg City Judge Barbara Medley. Kristen Smith was named the local winner, with Bryce Castleman second and Hunter Mitchell third. The local winners received cash prizes courtesy of the Bussart Law Firm.

General Sessions Judge Lee Bussart noted that the rule of law, marked by the holiday, benefits everyone.

"The law does not exist just for lawyers," she said.

With that in mind, she announced that Marshall County Bar Association has funded what it calls a "help button": a laptop with a database of answers to common legal questions which will be placed in the court clerk's office at the courthouse for use by the public.

Clerks are forbidden from giving legal advice, and the laptop will give citizens a chance to get answers to the most common questions about their rights and the court system. The laptop, which is being placed with the assistance of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, will also have court-approved legal forms and a directory of local lawyers broken down by area of specialty.

The laptop will be in "kiosk mode," meaning it can only be used for its intended purpose and won't be usable for other types of computer tasks or Internet surfing.

The City of Lewisburg Honor Guard presented the colors for the ceremony. District Attorney General Rob Carter offered the invocation, and Sheriff Billy Lamb led the Pledge of Allegiance.