Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition


“Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.”
Constance Baker Motley

The American Constitution Society (ACS) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School ACS Chapter host an annual national student writing competition in honor of Constance Baker Motley's legacy. As a civil rights attorney, first woman elected President of the Borough of Manhattan, and the first African-American woman appointed to the federal bench, Motley’s life-long commitment to equality for all aligns with ACS's mission to ensure that law is a force to improve the lives of all people. The deadline for this year's competition February 14, 2014. 

ACS welcomes all student papers furthering and promoting a progressive vision of the Constitution, law, and public policy. Entrants are encouraged to view this topic broadly, and we welcome submissions on a variety of substantive areas. Examples of possible topics include:

  • Civil Liberties
  • Consumer Rights
  • Criminal Justice
  • Disability Rights
  • Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Privacy
  • Immigration
  • Voting and Political Process
  • Racial Equality
  • Religion
  • Separation of Powers and Federalism
  • Women's Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Freedom
  • LGBT Rights
  • Human Rights
  • Education
  • Indigent Defense
  • Labor Law


Papers will be judged on the quality of their analysis and writing. The judging committee will include federal judges and leading academics. The student authors of the top three papers will receive special recognition at the ACS National Convention in the summer of 2014 and a cash prize for their work. The winner will be awarded $3,000. Each of the two runners-up will receive $1,000.             The top paper will also receive an offer of publication in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

This year's judges panel includes:

Judge Pamela Chen (E.D.N.Y.)
Justice Goodwin Liu (California Supreme Court)
Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (E.D. Pa.)
Nicole Huberfeld, Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law
Steve Sanders, Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Franita Tolson, Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights, Florida State University College of Law

Please review the 2014 Competition Theme & Submission Requirements before submitting your entry, which should be sent along with the 2014 Submission Form. The deadline to submit an essay is February 14, 2014. Email with any questions.

See our flyer for information on this writing competition and the Richard D. Cudahy Writing Competition on Regulatory and Administrative Law.


2013 Winners | 2012 Winners | 2011 Winners | 2010 Winners| 2009 Winners2008 Winners | 2007 Winners

2006 Winners  | 2005 Winners | Full Papers of Past Winners

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law

University of Pennsylvania ACS Chapter