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For immediate release: April 27, 2006
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig

Monday is Law Day

On Monday, May 1, judges, attorneys, students and citizens around the state and across the nation will participate in Law Day events celebrating the American legal system. The national theme of this year's Law Day is "Liberty under the Law: Separate Branches, Balanced Powers."

Videotaped remarks by Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz marking the occasion of Law Day can be viewed beginning Monday, May 1 on njcourtsonline.com; they will be archived on the site for the entire month.

In her remarks, Chief Justice Poritz emphasizes the importance of balancing power among the branches of government in order to maintain a democratic society: "The founders of our country knew well the dangers of unbridled authority. They sought a balance, with built-in restraints, in the hope that whenever the balance tipped, the structure would be sound and would right itself. Even in times of national emergency, when emotions run high, we rely on each of the three branches of our government to check one another."

The United States was the first nation to incorporate the idea of balanced branches of government in its Constitution, although the idea of checks and balances was initially proposed by the Baron du Montesquieu of France in 1748. Following the example of Montesquieu and other philosophers, the Founders ascribed to the legislative branch the power to make laws, to the executive branch the power to enforce laws, and to the judicial branch the power to interpret laws. The three branches each have power over the other. For example, the president can veto legislation, while the judicial branch can declare a law unconstitutional. Judges are nominated by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative branch, but their decisions must be adhered to by both branches. An executive branch veto can be overruled by a substantial majority of legislators, and so on.

First established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, Law Day is celebrated nationwide as an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the role that our legal system plays in upholding our democratic values. Although May 1 is the official date of Law Day, many vicinages in New Jersey have scheduled events throughout the month of May, including essay, poster and mock trial contests for children, awards and citizenship ceremonies, tours and community education opportunities. A complete calendar of Law Day events in New Jersey may be found at njcourtsonline.com.

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