stock photo of U.S. Capitol building and flag​​

May 1, 2024 – As we prepare to commemorate
Law Day on May 1, 2024, I invite all Wisconsinites to reflect upon the enduring significance of this annual observance.

This year, the American Bar Association (ABA) has chosen the theme “The Voices of Democracy,” which aligns with the foundational principles of our legal system and the essence of our nation’s democratic ethos.

Annette K. Ziegler headshot
Annette Kingsland Ziegler, Marquette 1989, is chief justice of the
Wisconsin Supreme Court, Madison.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
first established Law Day in 1958 as a day dedicated to the principles of government under law, or the Rule of Law, in the United States. Three years later, Congress designated May 1 of each year as a poignant reminder of the indispensable role that law plays in preserving and protecting our liberties, ensuring justice for all, and fostering a society governed by fairness and equality.

The ABA and similar civic-minded organizations offer a diverse range of resources and educational materials to enhance public knowledge of our legal system and encourage active participation in civic affairs. These
outreach resources encompass informative videos, interactive lesson plans, and engaging activities for teachers and students, including tips on how to talk or write about the Law Day theme.

Wisconsin court system’s website and the
Wisconsin State Law Library’s Learning Center offer a multitude of educational resources tailored to the needs of teachers, students, the media, and the general public.

The federal court system also lists several
educational initiatives, including “Distance Learning: Civics for Civic Engagement in the Federal Courts.” This initiative allows students to practice civil discourse skills and evidence-based decision-making while dealing with teen- relevant issues in realistic courtroom simulations.

In Wisconsin, people are more likely to come into contact with courts at the municipal or circuit court level, if they have contact with the courts at all. Municipal court cases involve primarily traffic, parking, and ordinance matters; and circuit courts, Wisconsin’s “trial” courts, are where most cases, civil and criminal, begin and end.

Wisconsin court system’s website provides a dashboard offering detailed statistical breakdowns of circuit court cases by type and disposition, allowing users to analyze data at both statewide and county levels.

Courts serve as a forum for individuals, families, businesses, and government to peacefully resolve legal disputes according to the law and facts presented. Judges do not go looking for cases but must decide the cases brought to them, even when they involve difficult or highly controversial issues. This role is vital to a civil society and our form of government.

The ABA encourages all of us to “collaborate to overcome our differences, resolve our disputes, and preserve our democracy and republic.” Law Day is a great opportunity to promote public understanding of our legal system and the work of the courts all year round.