ADAPTING TO PANDEMIC: Luncheon Canceled, But Law Day Traditions Go On


Former Nebraska Legislature Speaker Mike Flood was the keynote speaker at the Law Day Luncheon on May 1, 2019. (File photo)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Law Day was among the many events across Omaha and the rest of the world impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Omaha Bar Association’s annual luncheon was canceled, as the community remains under directed health measures that limit public gatherings. The restrictions – designed to reduce the cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus – extended into the courts, where jury trials remain postponed and an outbreak in the county prosecutor’s office threatened the Douglas County Courthouse.

Dave Sommers, executive director of the Omaha Bar Association, announced the luncheon’s cancellation in mid-March. The OBA has held the lunch for more than four decades.

“Law Day is actually much more than a lunch,” Sommers said in a news release. “It’s largely about reaching out to the children in the community and connecting with them about the importance of the legal system.”

The Omaha legal community holds mock trials, gives courthouse tours, invites lawyers to go into area classrooms and coordinates poster and essay contests around the Law Day theme each year. It also recognizes its own members through two public service awards, which are typically presented at the Law Day luncheon.

The poster and essay contests were still held this year, and the public service awards were given, although no presentation ceremony is planned this year due to COVID-19.

“We’re foregoing any sort of in-person celebration,” Sommers said.

Those other activities will return next year, and this year’s OBA luncheon will be replaced by video presentations by the scheduled keynote and award recipients. Find it at omahabarassociation.com/page/LawDay2020.

The national celebration of Law Day, organized by the American Bar Association, also has adapted to the spread of the coronavirus.

Pamela Roberts, the chair of Law Day 2020 and the former chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, told the ABA Journal that commemorating Law Day during the pandemic is particularly important.

“It is precisely in these moments – when people experience uncertainty and threatening changes to life as we knew it – that we, as a community, need to rely on our principles and institutions to ensure that our rights and freedoms are not cast aside,” she told the magazine.

The ABA Division for Public Education and the Law Library of Congress presented a Law Day 2020 program, “Social Movement Changing America: The Legacies of the 19th Amendment,” as a digital event last Thursday.

 Find more on Law Day at americanbar.org/groups/public_education/law-day.

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