Lesson to be learned in Law Day cancellation

Every year, the emails start months ahead of time. Dates are set. Speakers are announced. Meticulous plans are made – down to the last detail, to the last minute of the agenda.
It all leads up to two days every May when the Escambia County Bar Association hosts Law Day for area high school seniors. The event gives seniors the unique opportunity not only to sit in on a real trial, but to be members of the jury and return a binding verdict.
Plans are made by attorney Charles Godwin, who sends the emails, engages speakers, and coordinates the details. Law Day is his project, his “baby,” you might say.
Law Day has been a tradition in the county for 43 years – until this year.
This email was sent Thursday, March 2, from Mr. Godwin’s office:
“Since Alabama schools are cancelled for the current year, we will be unable to have our Law Day Program this year. this is the first time in forty-three (43) years that our Law Day Celebration has been cancelled. We look forward to our next Law Day celebration, May 6 and 7, 2021.”
One might think Mr. Godwin would be absolutely heartsick over the event’s cancellation, but that was not the case. Instead, he looked at the situation as a teaching moment – a lesson to be learned as important as the one learned sitting in the courtroom and hearing a case. And it’s a lesson for everyone, not just the seniors who would have attended.
Following are excerpts from a telephone interview with Mr. Godwin:
“This of course, is a disappointment. It’s the first time in 43 years we have to miss Law Day which promotes the rule of law, and currently, we are witnessing the rule of law at its best.
“The rule of law is what is employed under any given situation and in a manner that is appropriate, reasonable and prudent to protect the citizens, to protect their safety. At this time the rule of law is used to promulgate precautions and make them mandatory such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands. and other similar measures to prevent spreading of the virus.
“This also promotes good citizenship with the students. Good citizens are willing to obey the rule of law. What we are experiencing right now is for our very survival – to avoid serious illness and death. These are extreme measures. That’s why our government is in place and that’s why the rule of law is in place … Restrictions to keep us safe have been necessary.”
Mr. Godwin talked about the role of the judicial system, law enforcement, state government, and the local entities – sheriff’s office, mayors, police departments.
“They have a priority and a procedure that has had to be adjusted to meet the needs brought about by coronavirus. All have to do with Law Day. We depend on the courthouse to hold Law Day programs. The county commission is charged with responsibility of maintaining the safety of the courthouse.
“To assemble students for two days, we would be reckless to do that.
The school board had to make a decision about co-mingling, about bringing the school year to an end.
“All of these governmental functions have been brought to bear on this problem. There’s no way to know how many people are going to be able to avoid serious illness or death because of this.
“Again, as disappointed as we are to cancel Law Day, citizenship requires adherence to the rule of law. Every level of government has joined in protecting the public here.
“When I say rule of law, I’m not diminishing the role of healthcare provides. Rule of law helps prevent healthcare from being completely overwhelmed by this.”
While considering this year’s turn of events, Mr. Godwin is already talking about next year’s Law Day.