The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) is proud to be a participating Chapter in the James Otis Lecture Series. Our lecture program about the United States Constitution is designed to allow schools to comply with the requirements of the recent federal statute creating Constitution Day. This law requires all federally-assisted schools, both public and private, to provide educational programs each year on or about the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
America has a long and proud history shaped by lawyers and judges who have made lasting contributions to the rule of law, to the process of self government, and to the preservation of our precious individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Over the years, many Americans have sacrificed their lives or suffered great personal loss to advance the cause of liberty. As part of our program, we acknowledge the great debt we owe to our Founding Fathers and to these patriots.
James Otis, Jr., was arguably the most influential lawyer in early American history. According to John Adams, who was present at the time, Otis’s eloquent argument presented in a Boston court room in 1761 challenging the British laws, known as the Writs of Assistance, lit the spark which led to the American Revolution. It was Otis who said “A man’s home is his castle.” Otis challenged oppressive laws which permitted warrantless searches of homes and businesses. His arguments were a ringing reaffirmation of the Anglo-American belief all men are born with certain natural and inalienable rights which cannot be violated by any king, parliament, or other governmental authority. James Otis’s famous court room presentation is captured in a sweeping mural painted by Robert Reid in 1901 in Nurse’s Hall, part of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
ABOTA created the James Otis Lecture Series to educate and inspire students across our nation so they will have appropriate knowledge of and respect for the United States Constitution. We are honored to have a number of noteworthy participants each year. Together with students representing high schools throughout the country, we celebrate this important and historic event. We congratulate our carefully selected students and recognize them as James Otis Scholars.
On September 17, 1787, 39 men gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and signed the United States Constitution. What started in May of that year as an effort by delegates of the several States to amend the Articles of Confederation, resulted, instead, in an agreement by The People of the United States to establish a wholly new government unlike any on earth. Their expressed goal was to secure the blessings of Liberty to themselves and to their posterity. Of the 55 delegates who participated in the Convention that hot summer, 32 were lawyers.
What they formed was not perfect. It was a document which spoke of Liberty yet condoned slavery. It hinted at equality, yet gave disproportionate power to smaller states and slave states. It had an unworkable method of selecting an executive branch. Yet what was created after four months of debate, conflict and compromise resulted in a remarkable affirmation of the value of self-government and the rule of law. These principles have endured for more than two centuries.
Remarkable women and men have helped shape our government and preserve our liberties in that span. Many were lawyers. ABOTA hopes that the James Otis Lecture Series will help keep their memories and examples alive.
To find out more about how you can participate in a James Otis Lecture near you, contact the ABOTA Foundation at (800) 779 JURY (5879).
- Olympia, WA, May 1
- Austin, TX, September 17
- Boston, MA September 17
- Columbia, SC, September 17
- Santa Barbara, CA, September 21
Palm Beach, FL - September 14
Columbia, SC - September 14
Austin, TX - September 17
Boston, MA - September 17
Baton Rouge, LA - September 20
Miami, FL - September 20
Tampa Bay, FL - September 20
Jacksonville, FL - September 27
For locations and times, please contact Brian Tyson, our Executive Director, at email@example.com
or (214) 871-7523.
James Otis, Jr.
1725 - 1783