Essay Contest - Access to Justice

Fourth Circuit Essay Contest

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is pleased to announce an essay contest for high school students in the five states within the circuit. The contest offers students an opportunity to learn about the Constitution and Bill of Rights and a chance to win cash prizes.

The theme, Access to Justice, asks students to consider and share their thoughts on the question: "What does access to justice mean to you and how do the Constitution and Bill of Rights enable this access?"

Rules & Entry Form

Who May Enter
The essay contest is open to high school students (currently in grades 9 through 12) in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Note: Children, grandchildren, stepchildren, and members of the household of a federal judge or federal judiciary employee are excluded from the competition.

Essay Question
What does access to justice mean to you and how do the Constitution and Bill of Rights enable this access?

Length & Format
Essays are limited to 1000 words, excluding footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies.  Footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies are not required but will be credited during judging. Submit your essay in Microsoft WORD or Adobe Acrobat PDF format. Do not include your name on your essay. Include your name only on your entry form.

Contest Entry Form
Complete and save the entry form for submission as a separate PDF document.

Submission Deadline
Submit your essay and entry form as separate attachments to an email addressed to by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2017.

Judging and scoring will be based on the following criteria:

Understanding of constitutional principles 35 points
Clarity and effectiveness in expressing the theme 30 points
Originality 15 points
Grammar, spelling, and composition 15 points
Use of footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography   5 points

Not meeting the submission deadline, providing false entry information, and plagiarizing content are grounds for disqualification.


First Prize: $2,000
Second Prize: $1,500
Third Prize: $1,000

Awards will be announced in August and presented at a Constitution Day Event in September 2017. Winners will be asked to submit a picture and release form allowing the Fourth Circuit to publish their essays on court websites and at public events.

Contact the Fourth Circuit Clerk's Office at or (804) 916-2706.