Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition


Constance Baker Motley
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.


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, LGBTQ+ 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, and whistleblower protection.

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

Competition Details

Applications are now closed for the 2020 Constance Baker Motley Writing Competition. The top seven finalists will be selected by the end of March, and all entrants will be notified of their status at that time.

Applicant Qualifications:  The competition is open to all law students who are dues-paying ACS members.   

Judging Criteria: Papers will be judged on their effective use, analysis, and expansion of legal scholarship. Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to, voting rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, labor, money in politics, racial equality, religious freedom, Second Amendment, the 2020 Census, or the roles of state attorney generals. The selection committee will include federal judges and leading academics. 

Scholarship Prize: The winning paper author will be awarded $3,000 and each of the runners-up will receive $1,000. The winning authors of the top 3 papers will be featured during the 2020 ACS National Convention and on ACS’s website and social media platforms. The top paper also receives an offer of publication in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. 

Application Deadline: February 9, 2020 

Application Information:

2020 Submission Requirements

Submission Form

Competition FAQs

Judges include:

  • Hon. Richard Franklin Boulware II, U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada 
  • Hon. Edmond Chang, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Hon. Rebecca Dallet, Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • Darren Hutchinson, Raymond & Miriam Ehrlich Eminent Scholar Chair, Professor of Law, and Associate Dean for Faculty Development, University of Florida Levin College of Law; ACS Faculty Advisor
  • Leah Litman, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School; Member, ACS National Board of Academic Advisors
  • Kermit Roosevelt, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; ACS Faculty Advisor 
  • Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney

2019 Winners

Congratulations to the following winners of 2019’s Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition.  Special recognition was given to the winners at the 2019 ACS National Convention.


  • Eric Lynch (’19), William & Mary Law School, Going, Gutted, Gone?: Why Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is in Danger, and What States Can Do About It.


  • Ata Akiner (’19), Georgetown University Law Center, The President’s Power to Withdraw From International Agreements: The Role of Congress and the Courts.
  • Hayden Johnson (’19), Georgetown University Law Center, Vote Denial and Doubt: Strategic Section 2 Litigation and Constitutional Risk Management of the Results Test.


  • Caron Byrd (‘20), Florida State University College of Law, Term Limits and Minority Vote Dilution: The Effects of State Term Limits on Minorities in the Political Process 
  • Christopher Lin (‘19), Temple University School of Law, Equality Shall Not be Denied: Preserving Abortion in Pennsylvania Under the ERA 
  • Emily Migliore (‘20), Harvard Law School, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Statutory Amendment: A Call for Enhanced Due Process Protection in Pre-Bond Hearing Immigration Detention 
  • Danielle Stefanucci (‘20), St. John’s University School of Law, Shedding Tiers: A New Framework for Equal Protection Jurisprudence 

ACS thanks the University of Pennsylvania Law School ACS Chapter and Erik Lampmann for coordinating the writing competition.

ACS is grateful to the judging committee for this year’s competition, which included:

  • Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Hon. Jacqueline Nguyen, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Hon. Carlton W. Reeves, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
  • Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, National LGBTQ Task Force
  • Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Brian Soucek, University of California, Davis, School of Law
  • Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law

Past Competitions

For past competition winners, click here.