Happy Bill of Rights Day

Two hundred and twenty-four years ago the Bill of Rights was ratified on this day.  The Bill of Rights is made up of those first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, granting things like freedom of speech, jury trial, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and many other useful rights.  These rights have been around awhile now and they may seem intuitive today, but the history of the Bill of Rights was anything but straightforward. Ironically the Bill of Rights was never actually a “Bill” in Congress.  It got called that because England had passed a “Bill of Rights” a hundred years earlier.  Some felt these rights should have been included in the Constitution.  Others did not think we needed this Bill of Rights at all because states would have their own bill of rights.  Originally there were seventeen amendments, but the Senate rejected some and combined others.  Furthermore, some states did not accept the Bill of Rights right away.  Massachusetts did not get around to ratifying the Bill of Rights until 1939 (two years before President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be “Bill of Rights Day”). Today we celebrate the Bill of Rights, but every day […] Read More

Drafting the US Constitution

Fall cleaning?  While you may be preparing for the holidays with rearranging and cleaning out, framers of the US Constitution did the same thing back in 1787 as they created the document that would be become the foundation of our republic.  You might be surprised at some of the things left out of the US Constitution and what got rearranged. The words “God” and “democracy” were not used in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  Furthermore, the original Constitution did not provide for universal public education or include workers’ rights. Also, many of the founding fathers did not see a need for the Bill of Rights, as the states had their own bill of rights.  Still, the Bill of Rights was drafted, originally with 17 Amendments.  The House passed all 17, but the Senate rejected some, combined, others, and re-organized the list.  The First Amendment was not originally first —giving us freedom of speech and religion, and the right to assemble and petition the government—it was third. So as you prioritize what to keep and what to throw out, remember that the even the founding fathers of this country had to go through a bit of housekeeping when it […] Read More

“People”

Government power and legitimacy of the United States is framed within “People.”  “We the People” is the opening phrase of the US Constitution, and “to the people” is the last phrase of the Tenth Amendment (counting the Bill of Rights as part of the Constitution).  Similarly, the practice of law is about People. September 27th marks my seventh year as a practicing attorney.  It is not as easy as it looks.  The complexities of the law and the changes to the law make a lawyer’s job challenging, and fun for me (though not everyone shares my definition of fun).  I am pleased with the process our legal system provides and I enjoy having the education and knowledge of that system to help people.   Read More

Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Runnymede, England is a landmark of American law.  It is where King John affixed his seal to the Magna Carta eight hundred years ago yesterday.  Today the Magna Carta shows up on mugs and t-shirts, as well as in our Bill of Rights. Handwritten in Latin in 1215, this “Great Charter of Liberties” inspired many basic rights, including due process, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.  The Magna Carta embodies the idea that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Because of its big birthday this year and great influence, the American Bar Association and the Magna Carta Trust have launched a new website to tell the story of the significance of the Magna Carta.  You can view the “Magna Carta:  Icon of Liberty” website at http://iconofliberty.com/.   Read More

Top TV Script: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.  Who knew that two centuries later it would make for such great TV, winning Emmy’s and Golden Globe awards on shows like Law & Order, Boston Legal, and The Good Wife?  Those scripts would not have much plot without the Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  They were proposed in 1789, and have been in force since December 15, 1791.  In honor of those rights, we celebrate today as Bill of Rights Day.  While you can enjoy your Constitutional rights every day, you can mark today by watching a television courtroom drama or try out this Bill of Rights Bingo from the Constitucion Center: http://constitutioncenter.org/media/files/Bill_of_Rights_Bingo.pdf Read More

Happy Birthday to the US Constitution

September 17, 1787 members of the Constitutional Convention signed their names to a document that has been the supreme law of our land for over two centuries:  the Constitution of the United States of America.  Among its seven articles and twenty-seven amendments it gives us the three branches of government and our Bill of Rights.  The US Constitution is the first thing Florida attorneys swear to in the Florida Bar Oath.  Happy Birthday to our Constitution! Read More

Rights to Remember If You Are Arrested

Remember high school civics class, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights?  You may not have exact recall of Pythagorean’s Theorem or the meaning of onomatopoeia, but remembering you right to remain silent and your right to an attorney can be useful if you are arrested. If you are arrested, you do not have to answer questions and you can end an interrogation by stating that you wish to remain silent.  Speak up to say you want to remain silent.  Defendants can hurt their case by saying too much, and good legal counsel can help you work with prosecutors on an outcome that is best for everyone. The Florida Bar provides a free online pamphlet called “Legal Guide for New Adults” (available at http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/34557641d4c2f7c885256b2f006c5753?OpenDocument) which covers criminal charges and a variety of non-criminal subjects.  The language is in layman’s terms and its topics apply to new adults as well as those a little older than 18.   Read More

Bill of Rights & 40-Year-Old Animatronics

Sunday is December 15, the 40th anniversary of when the Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened at Disney World in Florida.  The date is also Bill of Rights Day, marking the 222 years since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.  Enjoy your Constitutional Rights, whether you are in the Magic Kingdom, or anywhere else in the US. The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  They were proposed in 1789, and have been in force since 1791.  They are as follows: Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Amendment III No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Amendment […] Read More

Bill of Rights v. Cupcakes

Tomorrow is Bill of Rights Day—who knew?  It snuck up on everybody since it was proclaimed a day of celebration on its 220th birthday last year.  On December 15, 2011 the President bumped National Cupcake Day in favor of a holiday to honor the Bill of Rights, even though Americans think of cupcakes more often than their right to a speedy trial…or the freedom of speech which makes this blog legally possible. The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  They were proposed in 1789, and have been in force now for 221 years. Enjoy your cupcakes, and here is the Bill of Rights: Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Amendment III No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, […] Read More