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March 5, 2013

Magna Carta’s Rule of Law Legacy to be Championed During Upcoming Anniversary


The ABA memorial to recognize the Magna Carta at Runnymede

Some Americans know they can protect themselves from self-incrimination during a police interview or in a courtroom if they “take the Fifth,” which provides due process as a result of the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  But we give little attention to the document that inspired these democratic ideals.

When the Magna Carta was written in 1215, it had a profound effect on law and justice. The Magna Carta was considered the founding document of Britain’s constitutional monarchy as well as American democracy. The _ recognizes the importance of this document and has begun planning a celebration of its 800th Anniversary in 2015.

The worldwide celebration hopes to bring new life to the Magna Carta’s influential language and provide new generations with knowledge of its impact. Queen Elizabeth II is the Magna Carta Trust’s “patron” (honorary supporter) and will join 800 ABA members and their families for the commemoration of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede on June 15, 2015.

According to Steve Zack, chair of the ABA Magna Carta Anniversary Committee and past president of the ABA, the Magna Carta is often attributed as the foundation of the sovereignty of regular power, where no person has a divine right above the law. “The celebration is a tremendous opportunity to discuss the rule of law and how we progressed from the rule of kings,” Zack said.

In 1957, the ABA recognized the Magna Carta by creating a memorial at Runnymede, 20 miles west of London. ABA members from around the country donated money to fund the memorial. The memorial still stands but needs repairs. In coordination with the Magna Carta’s 800th year of existence, the ABA has decided to “repair and rededicate it,” Zack said.

At the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas, the Board of Governors officially approved fundraising to refurbish the memorial and to hold anniversary events. The Magna Carta Anniversary Committee will seek donations from individual members, law firms, corporations and private citizens.

The ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress, in coordination with the Law Library of Congress, is planning a traveling exhibit to bring the story of the Magna Carta nationwide.

The exhibit will feature images from the Law Library of Congress’ rare books collection, along with supporting text that will highlight the Magna Carta’s role in promoting the rule of law. The exhibit will launch at the 2014 ABA Annual Meeting in Boston, with law schools, courthouses, public libraries and other venues hosting the exhibit through 2015 and beyond.

In addition to the memorial and traveling exhibit, there will be a special ABA commemorative book, essay contests, educational activities in U.S. schools and other locations, conferences and workshops with local bars and other institutions, as well as international outreach that might include translation of Magna Carta educational materials into other languages.

Visit the ABA’s webpage at www.ambar.org/magnacarta or visit www.magnacarta800th.com to learn about activities being planned in the United Kingdom and in other Commonwealth countries around the Magna Carta’s 800th Anniversary.

Learn More About:  Access to JusticeZack, Stephen N.