Submitted by Carol Ann Moses, Attorney at Law
YOSEMITE – Law Day is that special day each year on which Americans are encouraged to celebrate the importance of the rule of law and equal justice for all in this country. It also is a day to recognize and discuss the crucial role our courts play in protecting these principles.
For the second consecutive year, Law Day was celebrated in the shade of a towering oak tree at the foot of thundering Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.
Some 300 area 8th grade students, teachers, federal judges, state judges, attorneys, Park Officials and Yosemite employees attended.
Since this is the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s having the vision, in the midst of civil war, to sign the Yosemite Land Grant Act which established Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as the first American wild lands to be protected and preserved for all time, students heard first-hand from Abraham Lincoln, Galen Clark, John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt about their role in securing passage of the Grant Act and other laws which created and to this day protect Yosemite.
The day began with Courtroom Clerk Laurie Yu gaveling to order a Special Commemorative Session of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Honorable Michael J. Seng, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of California, Yosemite Division, welcomed the attendees and moderated the program.
The colors were presented by two National Park Ranger Mounted Horse Patrol officers. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Atticus Yu, a second grader at Yosemite Valley Elementary School. Emma M. Boone, daughter of the U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone, sang a moving a capella rendition of the National Anthem.
Attendees reported later that seeing the uniformed, horseback Rangers holding our flags against the backdrop of a river of water rushing down the face of the 2000 foot granite wall while listening to the National Anthem from Ms. Boone produced chills down spines and misty eyes.
Special guests included U.S. Magistrate Judges Stanley A. Boone and Sheila Oberto, Marianne Matherly, Chief Clerk of the U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of California, Madera County Superior Court Judge, Charles A. Wieland, retired United States Magistrate Judge Donald Pitts, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park, and several local dignitaries. Fresno-Yosemite attorney Carol Moses was recognized and thanked for the hours she spent preparing for the event and making it a success.
Holly Powell, Yosemite Valley resident and local artist was recognized for her design and creation of the Law Day Yosemite 2014 logo which was incorporated into memorial lapel pins, tee shirts and promotional materials.
Attending 8th graders had been invited to participate in an essay contest addressing the importance of the Yosemite Grant and why legislation was necessary to protect places like Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. The students’ teachers submitted the three best essays from each class to a panel made up of Yosemite prosecutor Matthew McNease, Theresa Ho, Delaware North Corporation representative, and Shauna Potocky, Yosemite National Park Education Branch Chief, who chose the three winners.
First prize, an Apple iPad Mini, went to Haley Brower, from Tenaya Elementary School in Groveland, California. Jared Weinburke and Violet Matlock, both from Woodland Elementary in Mariposa, wrote the second and third place winning essays and were awarded an iPod Touch and an iPod Nano, respectively. Each of the top three also received a commemorative tee shirt and a Certificate of Recognition from the Eastern District Court.
(photo – U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Seng; Jared Weinburke, Woodland Elementary School, Essay Contest 2nd prize winner; Violet Matlock, Woodland Elementary, 3rd prize winner; Haley Brower, Tenaya Elementary, 1st prize winner; Tim Buchannan, President, San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association)
Our featured guests, Abe, Galen, John and Teddy then made their appearances in full 1800s costume and personae and discussed with the students and each other their successive but interlocking roles in creating Yosemite and the ensuing National Park system. Special thanks to Fresno attorney Riley Walter for his debut as Theodore Roosevelt, Miles Standish of Sonora for Galen Clark, Fresnan Frank Helling as John Muir, and Oakhurst’s Frank Talley as Abe. All delivered charming, convincing performances and generously donated substantial time to the effort.
Law Day Yosemite 2014 concluded with lunch at the site for the students, a picnic at Judge Seng’s Yosemite home for the adults, and then, for the hearty and adventurous, a challenging hike to little-known Sierra Point, the only spot in the Park where five waterfalls can be seen from a single location.
Plans for Law Day Yosemite 2015 have begun. Save the date: May 1, 2015!