May 12, 2020

American Constitution Society Announces 2020 Constance Baker Motley Winner


Contact: Nancy Rodriguez

Washington, DC – The American Constitution Society has selected Tyler Smoot, a student at the University of Alabama School of Law, as the winner of the 2020 Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition.

The Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition is hosted by the American Constitution Society (ACS) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School ACS Student Chapter in honor of Constance Baker Motley’s legacy. As a civil rights attorney, Motley was the first woman elected President of the Borough of Manhattan, and the first African-American woman appointed to the federal bench. Her life-long commitment to equality for all inspires attorneys across the country to this day.

In its 15th year, this year’s competition garnered record entries from law students from across the country. Seven finalists were selected, out of which a distinguished and diverse panel of judges chose a winner and two runners-up.

Smoot was selected as this year’s winner based on his paper, Punishing the Poor: Challenging Carceral Debt Practices Under Beaden and M.L.B, in which he argues that many of today’s carceral debt practices are subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Runners-up are Ben Miller-Gootnick,  Harvard Law School, How the House Sues, and
Rachel Scholz-Bright, Georgetown University Law Center, A Hail Mary for the Administrative State: An Originalist Defense of Chevron Deference.

Each of the winners will receive a monetary award and Smoot will be offered an opportunity to publish his paper in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

All three recipients also will be recognized at ACS’s 2020 National Convention, which has been moved online due to the ongoing pandemic. To register for the convention and see the full schedule please visit the 2020 National Convention website.


ACS believes that the Constitution is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We interpret the Constitution based on its text and against the backdrop of history and lived experience. Through a diverse nationwide network of progressive lawyers, law students, judges, scholars, and many others, we work to uphold the Constitution in the 21st Century by ensuring that law is a force for protecting our democracy and the public interest and for improving people’s lives. For more information, visit us at or on Twitter at @acslaw.