May 1, 2015, is National Law Day. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the first Law Day. The theme for 2015 is “Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law.”
2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede, England, in 1215. Magna Carta has come to embody the simple truth that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law.
The founders of our nation drew upon the principles of Magna Carta in drafting our cherished documents of liberty, including the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Chapter 39 of Magna Carta declares “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions ... except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” This has been the inspiration to the rights we as Americans cherish, including due process, habeas corpus, trial by jury and the right to travel.
Magna Carta was the inspiration for and foundation of the 1948 adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was created after the world’s experiences with and aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust. The UDHR acknowledged the need for international human rights protected by the rule of law. Magna Carta continues today to be a source of inspiration in the continuing international struggle to advance human rights.
Magna Carta is the root of the freedoms we sometimes take for granted as citizens of the United States and the State of Iowa. As the nation celebrates Law Day 2015 let us all rededicate ourselves to advancing the rule of law here at home and abroad.
Nancy Tabor is a Seventh District Court Judge.