Law Student Writing Competition 2016

Law Student Writing Competition 2016

Deadline: January 13, 2017

Eligibility Rules

Submissions must be original works of publishable quality written by a student currently enrolled full- or part-time in a law school in the United States. All submissions must comply with the Harvard Law Review Association’s Bluebook Uniform System of Citation (20th ed.). There is no page limit for entries, although a word count of 3,000 to 5,000 words is suggested.

Deadline/Method of Submission

Submissions must be received by 5:00 p.m. (PST) on January 13, 2017, and must be submitted by email, in both Microsoft Word and PDF formats, and composed in Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced. Citations should be included in footnotes, and the essay may include headings and subheadings.

Please email your submission to In the body of the email please include your contact information, the law school you attend, and your expected graduation date. You will be notified via email when your submission is received.


Please direct any questions about the contest to or call (425) 576-0484


The first place winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize. The second place winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize and the third place winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize. The winner will also be recognized at the Annual Pacific Legal Foundation Gala. PLF will pay for the winner’s reasonable travel costs to attend the gala and will assist with travel arrangements.


Articles will be judged by a panel of PLF staff and principal attorneys.

A winning essay will be:

  • Adequately researched and properly supported by citations.
  • Effectively organized and articulately written.
  • Thorough, with a minimum of digression, but with potential counterarguments addressed.
  • Persuasive, original, and rigorous.

The winner will be notified by March 15, 2017.


Entries must address one of PLF’s topic questions to be eligible for prizes.

1. The Clean Water Act was passed to improve the quality and biological health of the waters of the United States. Federal courts have struggled to clarify the meaning of “waters of the United States” and the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which are tasked with enforcing aspects of the law. Does the “waters of the United States” rule recently proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers accurately describe the reach of Congress’s commerce power? If so, explain why. If not, explain how a judge should determine the outer boundary of Congress's power.

2. In Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997), the Supreme Court reaffirmed Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 U.S. 410 (1945), for its proposition that judges must defer to an agency interpretation of its own ambiguous regulation unless that interpretation is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation. What are the best arguments against that rule?

3. All state governments regulate and license certain occupations for the stated purpose of protecting the public from health and safety risks. An increasing number of licensed occupations consist mainly, or even entirely, of advice (e.g., tour guides, real estate advertisers, and providers of individually tailored information online or in print, such as diet plans, parenting tips, or veterinary guidance). How should courts draw the line between regulating professional conduct (typically subject to rational basis review under the Fourteenth Amendment) and free speech protected by the First Amendment?

4. Takings litigants are generally prohibited from bringing takings claims for just compensation in federal court unless they have first sought (and been denied) relief in state court. This de facto abstention doctrine arises from the Supreme Court’s holding in Williamson Cty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), and subsequent interpretations of the case by federal circuit courts, and departs from the general rule that one need not exhaust state court remedies before presenting a federal constitutional claim in federal court. Should the Supreme Court reconsider Williamson County’s holding that one may not present a takings claim for just compensation in federal court unless on has first litigated the matter in state court? Why or why not?