Left: Portrait of John Adams (1735-1826)

Below: John Adams, Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin drafting the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which the U.S. Constitution replicated in structure and principal.

Below: The original copy of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution is kept in storage at the Massachusetts Archives building in Boston. One of the most significant Adams documents at the archives is the state’s Declaration of Rights, the model for the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Right: In 1776, Benjamin Franklin, American politician, writer and inventor, met with the committee drafting the Declaration of Independence, which included future U.S. presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, as well as Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingstone.

Below: The infamous March 5, 1770, Boston Massacre, in which a mob of angry colonists surrounded a group of British soldiers in front of the Massachusetts state house. The soldiers, who opened fire and killed five colonists, were later defended at their criminal trial by John Adams.

Images, top to bottom: Oronoz/Newscom; Picture History/Newscom; AP/Lawrence Jackson; Rischgitz/Getty Images; Stock Montage/Getty Images

Proposed Reforms Address Wrongful Convictions
By Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge, State of New York

The exact number will always be a mystery, but we know that since DNA was first used over 20 years ago to exonerate an innocent person, there have been 266 documented DNA exonerations nationwide, 27 of them in New York alone, not to mention scores of exonerations based on traditional, non-DNA evidence. Every one of these exonerations is a reminder that our system of justice, while a source of great pride to all of us, is far from perfect.

Serving Today’s Complex Population
By Ann Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge, New York State Unified Court System

John Adams’ commitment to the principle of equal justice, and his courageous actions in furtherance of that principle, underscore our judiciary’s critical role in safeguarding that right for all who come into contact with our justice system. This is particularly true today, as our courts deal with a population that is far more diverse, and a society that is far more complex, than in Adams’ day.

Celebrating Two Who Lived the Ideal
By Luis A. Gonzalez, Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, First Department

We are fortunate to have so many courageous lawyers who have taken up the challenge of the unpopular cause, giving life to Adams’ vision of equal application of the rule of law, among them Clarence Darrow, a fierce litigator and a champion of the underdog, and Conrad Lynn, another courageous attorney who provided counsel to a number of unpopular criminal defendants.

Principles Live on in New York Courts
By A. Gail Prudenti, Presiding Justice, Appellate Division,Second Department

I believe John Adams would be pleased to see that his aspirations and high ideals for the practice of law have not only survived, but have flourished, becoming bedrock principles in our legal system. At the Second Judicial Department, we regularly see the work of dedicated attorneys who, on a constant basis, defend and protect the core values of due process and the rights of the accused.

The Government Too Deserves a Defense
By Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, City of New York

On a day when we honor the legacy of John Adams and his willingness to defend accused English soldiers despite the unpopularity of their cause, it is appropriate to remember that the principle underlying our second president’s determination, that every one against whom someone makes an allegation deserves a vigorous defense and an opportunity to present his or her case before a neutral arbiter, also applies to the government.

Adams Would Embrace Modern Technology
By Stephen P. Younger, President, New York State Bar Association

Technology is changing rapidly, increasing competition in a globalized marketplace; driving legal service providers to deliver quality at a competitive price; and forcing us to re-think how we train lawyers and structure our business models. Accelerated by the Great Recession, these changes are rapidly changing the legal landscape.

Thanks Due Lawyers at Guantanamo
By Samuel W. Seymour, President, New York City Bar

Over the past nine years, lawyers from across the ideological spectrum have volunteered countless hours to represent the Guantanamo prisoners. Most have worked pro bono, and many have struggled against intrusive and unnecessary bureaucratic barriers in seeking a fair and speedy trial for their clients.

A State Always Dedicated to Access to Justice
By James B. Kobak Jr., President, New York County Lawyers’ Association

This year’s Law Day celebrates the principle of due process and the rights of the accused. Throughout its history, the New York County Lawyers’ Association and the lawyers of New York have been dedicated to the promotion of access to justice and the active pursuit of reform in American jurisprudence.

End Prosecutorial Peremptory Challenges
By Catherine Torres, President, Puerto Rican Bar Association, and Elba Galvan, Member, Puerto Rican Bar Association Judiciary and Legislative Committees

It is a well-known precept that a prosecutor’s role is to search for truth and justice and ensure that a fair trial is conducted, rather than focus on “winning” the case. The use of peremptory challenges is inconsistent with that duty because it permits a prosecutor’s conscious or unconscious bias to influence her decision making.

Alternate Approaches Offer Promise
By Gretchen Beall Schumann, President, New York Women’s Bar Association

New York state has made considerable strides in both establishing and recognizing alternative approaches within its criminal justice system. These approaches not only ensure due process, but foster access to justice and rehabilitative measures for accused individuals who might otherwise be without adequate representation, advocacy or a chance for successful treatment.

The Asian-American Experience
By Linda S. Lin, President, Asian American Bar Association of New York

As we celebrate the legacy of Adams and how the rule of law has led to great opportunities for all, we must also recognize that the rule of law has often been threatened and that courageous individuals must stand up to unjust laws to ensure that the rule of law adheres to the core principles of equality and human dignity at the heart of our Constitution.

Let Justice Be Done Though Heaven May Fall
By Nicole McGregor-Mundy, President, Queens County Women’s Bar Association

Law Day 2011 celebrates the historical and contemporary role of the jurist in protecting the basic legal rights of the accused, the profound importance of the fundamental principle of the rule of law, and the legal community’s respect for and adherence to same, even in cases involving “unpopular” clients and matters that set off public tumult and civil unrest.

The Rule of Law Must Hold Steady
By Carlene Jadusingh, President, LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York

Throughout history, perhaps one of the most common denominators that can be attributed to the fall of the most powerful nations is fear. Another is apathy. That deadly combination has been responsible for the erosion of many of our once sacred freedoms and previously inalienable rights. And, unfortunately, lawyers are not immune from those feelings. But we do have a greater obligation to endeavor to overcome them.

The Bar Can Act in Three Roles
By Taa Grays, President, Network of Bar Leaders

This Law Day, the legal community recognizes the legacy of President Adams as a champion of liberty. Adams defended those whose positions, views or alleged transgressions were unpopular. In defending these clients, Adams was true to the principles embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in defending the liberty of all people.