Happy Law Day! I’m Sanjay Walvekar, the new legal community outreach specialist at the WSBA. I’m excited for this opportunity to introduce myself and to share my thoughts on this important holiday.
My role at WSBA is to strengthen relationships between the WSBA and our statewide legal community, including our local and county bar associations. I come to the Bar from a campaign background, having worked on statewide and local judicial campaigns for the past three years. As a member of the Bar, I consider Law Day to be a valuable recognition of our profession and our common goals, and a chance to educate the public about our work. In that spirit, I see two reasons why this is the perfect time to support and participate in Law Day activities.
First, we’re lucky to celebrate Law Day this year with an increased focus on the legal profession. Over the last several weeks, lawyers and judges have been a fixture in the news, with attorneys assembled at airports, executive orders halted, and widely-publicized lawsuits and appeals on the horizon. In the last three months, over 1 million(!) listeners tuned in to the travel ban oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit, and many learned that a single federal judge can stop a presidential order.
Because of this exposure and interest, we have a unique opportunity to engage with our communities on legal issues. There is tremendous potential to help the public learn more about the court system, immigration and constitutional law, government checks and balances, and the role of legal professionals in our society. We should capitalize on our increased exposure (and, in many cases, goodwill) to fulfill this civic responsibility, not just on Law Day but also in the weeks and months ahead.
Second, our Law Day theme for 2017 — “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy” — is especially relevant in today’s social and political climate. The 14th Amendment is the basis for landmark U.S. Supreme Court civil rights decisions affirming legal and cultural concepts that we now take for granted. These decisions ensured counsel for criminal defendants (Gideon v. Wainwright), confirmed reproductive rights (Roe v. Wade), and provided equality of marriage (Loving v. Virginia).
As we debate the issues of our day, it’s important to raise awareness about the tools available to advance civil rights and to ensure equality under the law. Politics aside, the 14th Amendment deserves recognition as one of the most influential pieces of our democracy. We all benefit from learning more about the history and application of this amendment.
This year, I hope the legal community will celebrate and educate as we recognize our continued importance in today’s society. Again, Happy Law Day! I look forward to meeting many of you over the coming months.