On Thursday, April 27, 2017 the Law Library of Congress will celebrate Law Day with a panel discussion about courtroom illustration, “Justice Through the Perspective of an Eyewitness Artist.” Law Librarian Jane Sanchez will introduce courtroom artists Marilyn Church, Pat Lopez and Bill Robles along with Library of Congress Prints & Photographs curator Sara W. Duke who will moderate the discussion. The event will take place at noon in Room 119 on the first level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.
This year’s Law Day event has been designed to coordinate with the opening of the exhibit, “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustrations.” The exhibit will feature drawings from 12 courtroom artists over a 50 year span of time. Three of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibit will participate in the Law Day event to speak about their experiences.
Marilyn Church had intended to work as a fashion illustrator, but in 1974 a friend urged her to work as a courtroom illustrator for a trial in Queens, New York. Church went on to sketch numerous high-profile cases in the New York area, including the criminal trials of Martha Stewart and John Gotti, and the now deceased, blind militant Omar Abul Rahman.
Pat Lopez has been a courtroom illustrator for almost 40 years. She began her career in 1979 with the Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee trial and went on to cover trials across the country from West Texas to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Among the significant court cases she has illustrated are the trials for the Waco, Texas Branch Davidian case, the Oklahoma City bombing trial and the case for the admission of women to the Citadel.
Bill Robles received a B.A. from the Art Center of Design and initially worked as an advertising illustrator. He is a Los Angeles-based artist, who has been illustrating trials for more than four decades. His first job as a courtroom artist was for the riveting Charles Manson trial in 1970-71. His drawing showing Manson’s attempted stabbing of the judge led off the CBS evening news that day. His work over the years covered the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson, the O. J. Simpson civil trial and trials litigated by nationally renowned attorney Thomas V. Girardi. Robles has traveled across the country to provide illustrations for various news outlets.
Law Day has been celebrated since 1958 when President Eisenhower issued the first presidential proclamation designating May 1 as Law Day. In his proclamation, President Eisenhower noted that “the principle of guaranteed fundamental rights of individuals under the law is the heart and sinew of our Nation and distinguishes our governmental system from the type of government that rules by might alone;” In 1961, Congress passed a law designating May 1 as Law Day in perpetuity and calling on the president to issue an annual proclamation for the celebration of this day.