A photo of a 1297 version of Magna Carta (Sotheby's, via Associated Press)

A photo of a 1297 version of Magna Carta (Sotheby’s, via Associated Press)

I was going to let the Magna Carta’s 800th birthday go unremarked on this blog. After all, that marvelous document s getting quite a bit of ink.

In fact, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine covered the June 15 event in our June issue, with a terrific book review and with a news story about talented high school filmmakers.

So enough already, right?

That’s how I felt, until I read yesterday’s blog post of the NW Sidebar, the blog of the Washington State Bar Association. It opens:

“June 15, 1215: King John of England sealed–not signed–Magna Carta, placing limits on the powers of the crown for the first time. On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it’s widely known that the U.S. constitution and legal system has roots in the historic document. Here are five facts about Magna Carta you might not know …”

Read the whole post here.

But I must—even a day late—add two worthy elements to your knowledge of this historic event. One is local, and one is in regard to a skirmish among legal historians.

  1. The local: The Arizona Bar’s own Trish Refo participated in the festivities in England that spanned this past week. She is the Chair of the ABA House of Delegates, as well as a partner with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. As the American Bar Association reported:
Trish Refo, left, chair of the ABA House of Delegates, introduces Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions. In the center is ABA President William C. Hubbard.

Trish Refo, left, chair of the ABA House of Delegates, introduces Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions. In the center is ABA President William C. Hubbard. (Credit: Professional Images)

Refo … introduced Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, during the June 11 opening of the ABA London Sessions at Westminster Central Hall.

“We are honored that President Caplen has joined us to mark this momentous occasion, the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta,” Refo said.

The London Sessions, which ran from June 11-15, were the culmination of a yearlong celebration of the historic charter. The celebration featured preeminent speakers and 16 continuing legal education programs that focused on the Great Charter’s impact and relevance on the rule of law today.

Trish Refo, right, greets Queen Elizabeth II.

Trish Refo, right, greets Queen Elizabeth II. (Credit: Professional Images)

Refo was present at Monday’s morning-long Magna Carta anniversary celebration, where she met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The morning’s events, attended by more than 4,000 guests, were followed by a rededication ceremony of the newly refurbished ABA Memorial, which was erected in 1957 to honor the legacy of Magna Carta and the principles of justice it represents.

ABA President William C. Hubbard led the rededication ceremony, which was attended by dignitaries including Princess Anne, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, and Matthew Barzun, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

  1. The legally hisorical: I urge you to read this article in the New York Times that describes an ongoing disagreement among scholars as to how significant—really—the Magna Carta was and how compelling to our imagination it should remain.

As the reporter writes:

“In the United States, Magna Carta—it means Great Charter in Latin—is treated with a reverence bordering on worship by many legislators, scholars and judges. It is considered the basis for many of the principles that form the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

As the story says, a significant number of folks do not agree with that assessment. Here’s the whole story.

Happy birthday anyway, Great Charter!

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