2011 Law Day Art and Essay Contest Winners - Articles

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 7, 2012

Annual contest explores legacy of John Adams

The YLD is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Tennessee Law Day Art and Essay Competitions.

Each May, the American Bar Association, in conjunction with state and local bar associations, sponsors Law Day programs around the country. The purpose of celebrating Law Day is two-fold: (1) to instill in students an appreciation for the law and foster a greater understanding of the American judicial system, and (2) provide an opportunity for attorneys to serve their local communities.

The theme of this year's contest was
"The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo," which was designed to provide an opportunity for students to consider the role Adams played in American history, and explore the historical and contemporary role of lawyers in defending the rights of the accused -- even those who are unpopular. Adams became the nation's first lawyer-president in 1797, but as a younger man he was a prominent leader in the American colonial resistance to British authority. In 1770, British officers and soldiers fired into a crowd of protestors and killed five civilians in what would become known as the "Boston Massacre." Despite his opposition to British control, Adams believed in the rule of law and defense of the rights of the accused. He demonstrated that commitment by providing legal counsel to the soldiers. Today, lawyers are still called on to represent unpopular clients or become involved in matters that generate public controversy. Students were asked to reflect these concepts through their art work and essays.

Winners will receive cash prizes for their entries, which will be on display at the TBA Convention in Chattanooga June 15-18.

The YLD would like to thank Jackson lawyer Michelle Sellers with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC for serving as this year’s state Law Day Art and Essay Contest coordinator.

Essay Competition Winners

First Place 
Ashton Banta
12th Grade
Red Bank High School
link to PDF of essay

Second Place 
Victoria Rochelle Nelson
10th Grade
Bearden High School
link to PDF of essay

Third Place 
Oleksandr Oliynyk
11th Grade
Northwest High School
link to PDF of essay

Honorable Mention 
Anna Abbot
11th Grade
Nashville Christian School
link to PDF of essay

Excerpts from First Place Essay
By Ashton Banta

When reminiscing about his representation of the defendants from the Boston Massacre trial, John Adams wrote in his journal, "The part I took in defense of...the soldiers procured me anxiety..It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I have ever rendered to my country." Adams recognized that by providing these British soldiers with a fair trial, he was setting a precedent for what would become the courts of the United States. By representing these men - despite the horror of his fellow patriots - Adams began a legacy of protecting people's rights, even if those rights belong to unpopular defendants ... He fought to begin the practice of a fair trial and of a defense for everyone.

This legacy has lasted all the way to present day. Because of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, many U.S. citizens were willing to suspend the basic human rights of suspected foreign terrorists. Out of fear and a desire to find those responsible for one of the bleakest days in the nation's history, Americans - much like the Bostonians of 1770 after the Boston Massacre - saw no reason to hesitate from arresting any suspected terrorists and denying them a fair trial. Several law firms around the country, however, followed in the footsteps of John Adams and fought to be allowed to...represent the prisoners. Although these suspected terrorists, much like the British soldiers...were seen as unpopular and undeserving by the majority of the public, these lawyers were willing to put aside personal differences and prejudices and make sure that the American legal system stayed honorable.

While it may be difficult for the general public to recognize how important a fair legal system is when facing potentially dangerous defendants, John Adams' legacy will hopefully continue to overpower prejudice and encourage [representation] for all.

Excerpts from First Place Art
Examples of the historical and contemporary role of lawyers in defending the rights of the accused:

1770 Boston Massacre
1846 Insanity defense of William Freeman by William Steward
1886 Ziesler's and Black's representation of the "Haymarket 8" accused of killing a Chicago police officer
1930 Samuel Leibowitz's defense of nine black Alabama teenagers, the Scottsboro Boys, accused of rape
1995 Michael Tigar and Brian Hermanson represent Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing case
2011 Efforts by lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees in the global war on terrorism

Art Competition Winners

First Place
Kylie Mackenzie Bowman

5th Grade
Cedar Bluff Elementary, Knoxville

Second Place
John Gannaway
8th Grade
Meigs Middle School, Decatur

Third Place
Caroline Melancon

5th Grade
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Germantown

Honorable Mention
Ryan Bauer

6th Grade
St. Rose Catholic School, Murfreesboro