How to Win a Prize for Writing About Originalism

I am pleased to report the University of Chicago Federalist Society has a new writing prize, the Eaton Award, available to members of the Federalist Society anywhere in the country so long as they do not have an extensive history of academic publication.

This year’s topic is “Does originalism still work?” Both defenders and critics of originalism are encouraged to submit!

The full announcement is below:

University of Chicago Federalist Society

Announcing the Eaton Award:

The University of Chicago Federalist Society is excited to announce the Eaton Award, a writing prize made possible by the generosity of Professor Philip Eaton. The award is designed to encourage new scholarship in the area of Constitutional Law and to develop young Constitutional Law scholars. The winner of the 2021-2022 award will receive an amount in excess of $2000 (to be finalized later) as well as recognition for them and their work.

This year’s topic and the rules for submission are below.

Prompt: Does originalism still work?

Justice Scalia defined originalism as interpreting the Constitution according to “what it meant when it was adopted” instead of “what current society, much less the Court, thinks it ought to mean.” At the time, these claims were controversial, but in the next generation many legal thinkers followed Justice Scalia’s approach. There are now at least four, and as many as six, self-identified originalists on the Supreme Court.

Originalism’s animating principles are well-known. Originalism promotes consistency by pointing judges to something outside themselves and their policy preferences. Originalism protects democracy by preserving the will of the people as articulated in the Constitution and its many amendments. Originalism is faithful to the nature of the Constitution and its text. Originalism is part of our law and promotes the rule of law.

Much has changed since the defining days of originalism. Faith in our institutions is treacherously low. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended society. Political division has driven our nation to the brink of constitutional crisis. And many conservatives believe originalism is no longer delivering what it promised. As we sit here today, are the justifications for originalism still convincing? Or should those who believe in freedom, the separation of powers, and the rule of law develop a new approach to constitutional interpretation? Does originalism still work?

Rules for submission:

This essay competition is open to members of the Federalist Society anywhere in the country who do not have an extensive history of academic publication. The essay should be no longer than 50 pages, though we welcome shorter (or even much shorter) submissions. The essay may be of any style, but it must be original and previously unpublished at the time of submission. The author is welcome and encouraged to publish it later. (If you are unsure if your essay is eligible, please submit it!)

The winner will be judged by a committee made up of members of the University of Chicago Federalist Society chapter plus two outside experts in constitutional law (including one faculty member at the University of Chicago Law School).

Please submit your essay by email to Conley Hurst, ckhurst@uchicago.edu, by March 15, 2022.

The winner will receive a cash prize in excess of $2000, be recognized at an appropriate ceremony by the University of Chicago Federalist Society Chapter, and will have their essay promoted and circulated to other members of the Federalist Society by the Chapter.

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