Judging Under Way in FCBA’s Seventh Annual Constitution Contest

Published: September 11, 2022

The FCBA’s Seventh Annual Constitution Contest received more than three-dozen entries from high school students across the Northern District.

Seven high schools from four counties were represented this year: Bethlehem Central High School in Albany County, Cazenovia High School in Madison County, Clayton A. Bouton High School (Voorheesville) in Albany County, Clinton Senior High School in Oneida County, Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Onondaga County, Guilderland High School in Albany County, and Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Onondaga County.

Thirty-seven entries were submitted across this year’s two categories: twelve entries in the Video Performance Category (for recitations, speeches, songs and skits shorter than 10 minutes in duration that have been uploaded to YouTube, TikTok, Instagram Reels or JotForm); and 25 entries in the Poster Category (for arrangements of text and images of any size and media as long as the content is suitable for reproduction as a two-dimensional poster).

All entries concern the origin of some aspect of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, each entry regards one of this year’s six subjects: (1) how the framers of the Constitution tried to make federal court judges independent (e.g., from the influence of the other branches of government, as well as from popular opinion), and why; (2) whom the two chambers of our bicameral legislature were originally intended to represent (i.e., before 1913), what function this was intended to serve in a system of checks and balances, how and why this was changed in 1913, and why each state’s number of senators was fixed rather than tied to the state’s population; (3) who argued against the ratification of the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), who argued for its ratification, and what their arguments were; (4) what each of the seven articles of the Constitution is about, what each article’s role is in relation to the others, and how strong the judicial branch was intended to be in relation to the other two branches, and why; (5) what the 27 amendments to the Constitution are, and what the rights protected by each amendment are; and (6) a recitation and discussion of James Madison’s famous “If men were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51.

Entries in each category will be evaluated by five federal judges: Chief U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes, U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart. Entries will be evaluated according to a scoring rubric that has two parts of equal value: (1) whether the entry’s answers to the questions posed in the topic are thorough and supported by historical sources; and (2) whether the entry’s answers to the questions posed in the topic are clear, interesting, and persuasive. Entries have been redacted to keep each entrant’s identity anonymous to the judges.

Prize winners will be announced on September 17, 2022 (Constitution Day). Up to $4,500 in monetary prizes will be awarded for entrants winning first place, second place, third place and honorable mention in each category, with the first-place winner in each category guaranteed a prize of at least $750. More details about the contest can be found at www.constitutionalscholars.org.