Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But what exactly is this document? It is printed in Statutes at Large. It is included in the United States Code as one of “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” It has been mentioned periodically in Supreme Court decisions. Not surprisingly, the legal relevance of this document has been the subject of some debate by members of the legal academy. “Declaration of Independence” as a title search in HeinOnline will yield several articles.
Visit the National Archives website to view images of the Declaration of Independence and to read a brief history of this document. The original is housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. You can also view a 1998 video of then members of the Supreme Court reading the complete text.
The law library will be closed on July 3 and 4 in observance of Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks!
On June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, King John affixed his seal on Magna Carta. Eight hundred years later Magna Carta remains one of the world’s most important documents, especially in America where it heavily influenced the drafters of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Magna Carta remains relevant today as a symbol of liberty and the fundamental principle that no one is above the law:
No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
–Magna Carta, Clause 39
Want to learn more about Magna Carta? Please see the law library’s new guide to Select Resources about Magna Carta.
After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Congress acted quickly to pass the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, better known as the USA Patriot Act. It was signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001.
The Act expanded the investigative authority of federal officials, including their ability to track and intercept communications, in addition to other enhanced powers to combat domestic and international terrorism. The Act has been very controversial because of its impact on civil liberties.
Effective midnight May 31, certain provisions of the act expired, including § 215 which had been used by the National Security Agency as authority to collect of millions of telephone records. Prior to this sun-setting, the House had passed H.R. 2048: the USA Freedom Act of 2015. Today, the Senate passed this bill and it was signed by President Obama. His signing statement is available on the White House Website. Track the law’s history on Congress.gov.
To learn more about the Patriot Act, please consult the law library’s National Security Research Guide. Resources available in the library include a five volume compiled legislative history of the Act. To discover more about the controversy surrounding this law, GMUSL patrons may wish to search these databases, in additional to traditional news sources: