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.

2022 Constance Baker Motley Writing Competition Winners

Applications for the 2023 Constance Baker Motley Writing Competition will open in Fall 2022.


Second Middle Passage: How Anti-Abortion Laws Perpetuate Structures of Slavery and the Case for Reproductive Justice

Halley Townsend, Washington & Lee University School of Law


Does Context Matter? Evaluating the Constitutionality of California’s Boardroom Diversity Mandate

Claire Rice, The University of Chicago Law School

Not Up For Deliberation: Expanding the Peña-Rodriguez Protection To Cover Jury Bias Against LGBTQ+ Individuals

Brett Ries, Duke University School of Law

Confirmed Judge Panel:

  • Hon. Allison D. Burroughs, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
  • Hon. Melissa Hart, Justice, Colorado Supreme Court
  • Helen Norton, Professor and Ira C. Rothgerber, Jr. Chair in Constitutional Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • Kermit Roosevelt, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
  • Hon. Michael A. Shipp, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
  • Reggie Shuford, Executive Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania
  • Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Emeritus, Harvard Law School

Other Finalists:

Invitation Accepted:  Challenging Anti-Education Laws at the Intersection of Critical Race Theory, Academic Freedom, and Labor Rights

Simon Cao, Penn State Law

Doctrinal White Supremacy

Alanna Kane, UCLA School of Law

Big Healthcare is Incompatible with Better Outcomes: Hospital Consolidations, Racial Health Disparities and Antitrust Regulation

Sheela Ranganathan, University of Texas School of Law

Scalia’s Slippery Synecdoche: A Critique of an Originalist First Amendment

Chelsea Thomeer, Yale Law School

Past Competitions

For past competition winners, click here.