Rule of Law Strategy Competition

ACS Rule of Law Strategy Competition Logo

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Niskanen Center and Educating Citizens on Government Corruption are pleased to announce the First Rule of Law Strategy Competition.

Public officials owe the people their faithful adherence to the law. When executive branch officers take their oath of office, they swear they will “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.” The Constitution requires the President to swear that he or she “will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” A public servant—from the President down—owes the people his or her undivided loyalty.

The 2018 Rule of Law Strategy Competition will explore presidential accountability and conflicts of interest. How do the people use the law to ensure that their public servants are indeed faithful- free from conflicts of interest - and do not use the power of the office for personal gain?

The competition has been created to help spur a new generation of law students and lawyers dedicated to the study and protection of the rule of law and constitutional norms. It is structured to encourage collaboration and innovative thinking. It is also practically oriented. Students are challenged to think about contemporary, specific lapses in the rule of law and then to craft real world solutions.

The competition sets forth a contemporary and specific fact pattern that raises the question whether and to what extent a President may flout the rule of law and conflict of interest principles. It then challenges competition participants to analyze the fact pattern and to propose legal solutions to the problem, if they conclude there is one.

This year's competition asks participants for possible legal remedies to address a potential hole in the law: President Trump is "landlord and tenant" of the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office. The lease agreement states that no elected official of the government may benefit from the lease of the Old Post Office. There is no clear path to adjudicate whether a government contract has been breached and a grave conflict of interest has been allowed to persist.


Competition Details:

Content: A full memorandum laying out the fact pattern with a brief summary of conflict of interest issues is available here.

Deadline: The submission period for the Competition is now open. All submissions are due September 28, 2018, 12:00 UTC.

Submissions should be emailed to:

Prize: The competition seeks to emphasize the team nature of legal practice so law students can write solo or form teams with practicing lawyers, academicians and paralegals. There will be two sets of prizes: one for a team submissions and one for an individual law student submission.

Team Prizes

First Place:              $15,000

Second Place:         $  7,500

Individual Prizes

First Place:              $10,000

Second Place:         $  5,000

In addition, all participants in the competition will be awarded ACS membership if they wish.


  1. Teams: consisting of law students, academicians, practicing lawyers, and/or paralegals (each team containing at least one law student), or
  2. Individual law students currently enrolled in an ABA-accredited law school seeking a J.D., LL.M. or J.S.D.


A range of formats are eligible and encouraged, from legal memoranda to traditional full-length law review articles.

Entries submitted must be in Word format and any citations in submissions should appear in footnotes, not endnotes. The text must be double-spaced 12-point Century Schoolbook font with 1-inch margins. The footnotes may be in single-spaced 10-point Century Schoolbook font.

Submissions should not exceed 10,000 words, not including footnotes.

Your submission should contain the cover sheets (available here).

Please do not include your name or other identifying information anywhere else in your submission.

Judging Process:

A panel of seven judges will determine the award winners.

The judges’ panel is headed by Deepak Gupta, the founding principal of Gupta Wessler PLLC.

In the 2016-2017 U.S. Supreme Court term, Gupta’s firm was counsel of record for parties in three merits cases. He was lead counsel in two, prevailing in both. In Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, he argued that laws designed to keep consumers in the dark about the cost of credit are subject to First Amendment scrutiny. The brief was ranked by Empirical SCOTUS as the single most readable of the term. And in Hernández v. Mesa, Deepak and his team persuaded the Court to reject a border guard’s immunity defense (and reverse a 15-0 en banc decision) in the tragic case of a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican teenager.

Law 360 has called him “one of the emerging giants of the appellate and the Supreme Court bar,” a “heavy hitter,” and a “principled” and “incredibly talented lawyer.” Fastcase recently recognized him as “one of the country’s top litigators,” noting that “what sets him apart” is his legal creativity. The National Law Journal singled out Deepak’s “calm, comfortable manner that conveys confidence” in oral argument.

All submissions will go through an initial screening process administered by ACS staff. Finalists from that process will be reviewed by the panel of judges. Submissions will be judged on their depth of analysis, quality of writing, originality, and thoroughness of research. The winners will be announced in November.

Additional Questions:

Can I submit a paper that is already published?

Yes. If submitting a paper that is either published or accepted for publication, the author should include written consent from the publication to allow its posting to the ACS website, with appropriate attribution.

Can I submit a paper that I am receiving academic course credit for?

Yes. A paper that received or will receive academic credit for a course can be submitted.

Can primary or secondary sources, outside of case law, be used as research?

Yes. Primary or secondary sources that are not legal can be used in the paper submissions. Examples of alternative sources include statistics, policy briefs, social media related-sources, etc.

Do I need to be an ACS member to submit a paper to the writing competitions?

No. The author(s) do(es) not have to be an ACS member.

How can I help promote the competition?

Retweet ACS and promote the competition on social media using our sample posts.

Other questions: Please email


ACS thanks the Arizona-based not-for-profit Educating Citizens on Government Corruption for its generous support of the Competition.