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 the 2018 CBM competition has passed. 

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:

  • Census Report
  • Civil Legal Aid
  • Civil Liberties
  • Constitutional Convention
  • Consumer Rights
  • Criminal Justice
  • Disability Rights
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Immigration
  • Indigent Defense
  • Money in Politics (including Judicial Elections)
  • Labor Law
  • LGBTQIA Rights
  • Privacy
  • Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment
  • Racial Equality
  • Religion
  • Role of State Attorneys General
  • Second Amendment and Guns
  • Separation of Powers and Federalism
  • Women's Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Freedom
  • Voting and Political Process
  • Whistleblower Protection


Papers were 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 2018 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 would be eligible for publication in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.


2018 Judge Panel:
Prof. April Dawson, North Carolina Central University School of Law
Prof. Erin Delaney, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Hon. David Lillehaug, Minnesota Supreme Court
Hon. Beverly B. Martin, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Hon. Mary Rowland, US District Court for Northern District of Illinois
Prof. Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law


Felony Disenfranchisement Laws: Paying and Re-paying a Debt to Society.

-Christina Beeler, University of Houston Law Center


Your Secret Life According to Your Honda Accord: Applying the Fourth Amendment to Automobile Infotainment Data.

      - Natasha Harnwell-Davis, Columbia Law School


The Path to Standing: Asserting the Inherent Injury of the Data Breach.

Jennifer Joslin, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law

Other Finalists

The Ad Hoc Federal Crime of Terrorism: Why Congress Needs to Amend the Statute to Properly Address Domestic Extremism.

-Nathan Carpenter, St. John’s University School of Law


Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide: Applying the Fourth Amendment to Connected Cars in the Internet-of-Things Era.

-Gregory Brown, Jr., St. John’s University School of Law


Achieving Ake: Defendancts Deserve the Constitutional Right to Independent Mental Health Professionals.

-Alexandra Marinucci, University of Pittsburgh School of Law


Can You Hear Me Now: Stingray Cell Tower Mimes Under Constitutional Scrutiny.

-Triston O’Savio, Penn State’s Dickinson Law

Please review the 2018 Competition Theme & Submission Requirements before submitting your entry, which should be sent along with the 2018 Submission Form. An FAQ sheet on the CBM writing competition can be found here


Click here more information about the Richard D. Cudahy Writing Competition on Regulatory and Administrative Law.


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University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law

University of Pennsylvania ACS Chapter