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2020 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest Finalists Announced

June 5, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO – Preliminary judging has been completed in the 2020 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest for high school students in the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. All told, nearly 1,000 young people  entered the contest, despite challenges posed by school closures and distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Right to Vote: Milestone Anniversaries” was the theme of the contest. Students in grades 9-12 in public, private and parochial schools and home-schooled students of equivalent grade status were challenged to write an essay or produce a short video with the questions presented: “In the wake of the 15th and 19th Amendments, barriers remained to prevent United States citizens from voting. Do formal or informal barriers remain today? What additional changes would you make, if any, to Americans’ voting rights?”

Fifteen federal courts in the Ninth Circuit held local contests with winners advancing to the final round to compete in the circuit-wide competition. In all, 38 essays and 27 videos were selected to advance to the next round for consideration by judges, attorneys, court executives, law clerks, court and library staff, and the Public Information and Community Outreach (PICO) Committee, which will announce the winners in late June. At the circuit level, prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500 will be awarded to first-, second- and third place winners in both the writing and video competition.

“The Ninth Circuit’s long-standing commitment to civics education is showcased in this year’s 2020 contest. Because our circuit is the largest and busiest in the nation, it is gratifying that so many judges, administrators and attorneys gave generously of their time to contribute to the contest. These individuals helped to organize, promote, administer and judge the contest,” said U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of San Diego, who chairs the PICO Committee. “Students
found themselves in the midst of transitioning to remote learning and yet still made the effort to focus on the legal issues posed by the contest. Despite these challenging circumstances, this year’s contest did not disappoint. The quality of essays and videos and the level of participation were excellent. Students examined legal principles, made thoughtful analyses and exhibited insights into our legal system and our constitutional democracy,” Judge Sammartino added. “Our sixth annual essay and video contest has continued the special work done by the circuit in its emphasis on civics education,” Judge Sammartino observed.

The Ninth Circuit takes in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, the U.S. Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Please see the attachment for a complete list of contest finalists.