Law Day 2017 | Statement of John G. Levi, Chair, Board of Directors, Legal Services Corporation

May 1, 2017

WASHINGTON –  Every year on May 1,  Americans observe Law Day—a day to celebrate the American justice system. This year’s theme, “The Fourteenth Amendment: Transforming American Democracy,” honors the role the Fourteenth Amendment has played in protecting our fundamental rights and the rule of law.  

Ratified during Reconstruction nearly 150 years ago, the Fourteenth Amendment serves as seminal civil rights legislation. In particular, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses have advanced the rights of all Americans.  

Yet while the Fourteenth Amendment is sweeping in its promises, these rights are not self-enforcing. As we celebrate the Fourteenth Amendment we must also acknowledge those who advocate on its behalf.   

Every day, legal aid attorneys across our nation fight for Fourteenth Amendment rights of low-income Americans with little fanfare and enormous dedication. They selflessly pursue work that makes our legal system more fair, equal, and just for all irrespective of wealth or status. For without these attorneys, access to justice is unreachable for some—and the Fourteenth Amendment’s most basic rights of due process and equal protection mean little.  

Access to justice is a core principle of the rule of law. Failure to provide such access to our legal system undermines Americans’ confidence in the fairness of our justice system, and breaks faith with the founding values of our nation

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia powerfully declared at the Legal Services Corporation’s 40th Anniversary conference in 2014, “The American ideal is not for some justice, it is as the Pledge of Allegiance says, ‘liberty and justice for all,’ or as the Supreme Court pediment has it, ‘equal justice.’  I’ve always thought that’s somewhat redundant. Can there be justice if it is not equal?  Can there be a just society when some do not have justice?  Equality, equal treatment, is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice.”

This Law Day, I invite all attorneys, and members of the public, to join us in celebrating the rule of law and furthering the American ideal of “liberty and justice for all.”   

John Levi is the Chairman of Legal Services Corporation. 

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.