May 2, 2022

American Constitution Society Announces 2022 Constance Baker Motley Winners

Contact: Nancy Rodriguez,

Washington, DC – The American Constitution Society has selected a third-year law student at the Washington and Lee University School of Law as the winner of the 2022 Constance Baker Motley National Student Writing Competition.

Halley Townsend was selected as this year’s winner based on her paper, Second Middle Passage: How Anti-Abortion Laws Perpetuate Structures of Slavery and the Case for Reproductive Justice. In the paper, she argues that SB8, like its counterparts in the other former slaveholding states, perpetuates structures of slavery in the form of state control over the Black female body.

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. Constance Baker Motley served as the first female attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,  wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education, was the first Black woman to argue before the Supreme Court, and became the first Black woman to sit as a federal judge. She embodied the fight for civil rights while advancing racial justice and equality, inspiring attorneys of future generations.

In its 17th year, this year’s competition garnered entries from law students across the country. Seven finalists were selected, from which a distinguished and diverse panel of judges chose one winner and two runners-up.

This year’s runners-up are Claire Rice, a second-year law student at The University of Chicago Law School, for her paper, Does Context Matter? Evaluating the Constitutionality of California’s Boardroom Diversity Mandate; and Brett Ries, a second-year law student at Duke University School of Law, for his paper, Not Up For Deliberation: Expanding the Peña-Rodriguez Protection To Cover Jury Bias Against LGBTQ+ Individuals.

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

All three recipients will be recognized at ACS’s 2022 National Convention June 16-18 in Washington, D.C. To register for the convention and see the full schedule, please visit the 2022 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 @acslaw.