Submissions open for 2023 Graton Prize in Constitutional Law

Endowed by Claude Dewing Graton, Class of 1900, the Graton Prize is awarded annually to the best essay responding to a current question in constitutional law. This year’s prize will award up to $4,000 to the best response to each of three questions: 

  1. What are the constitutional issues facing the Department of Justice in deciding whether to prosecute former president Trump, pursuant to the criminal referral of the congressional January 6 Committee? To what extent can (or should) the DoJ hold the former president legally accountable for his role in the events of January 6, 2021? Can he be constitutionally disqualified from running for the presidency again? 
  2. Who is the ultimate arbiter of how a state administers an election—the state legislature or the state supreme court? What are the stakes involved here? Discuss with reference to Moore v. Harper, a case being decided during the current term of the U.S. Supreme  Court.  
  3. Does the federal Department of Education have the constitutional authority to forgive the debt obligations of student borrowers? What are the legal issues that must be considered? How should the Supreme Court answer this question, as it has agreed to do? 

Any regularly enrolled undergraduate student may enter the contest. A qualifying essay must respond to only one of the set questions and should illustrate its answer by drawing (where appropriate) on the intent of the Framers, actions of Congress and/or the executive; and landmark decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Essays must be submitted in hardcopy to the Office of the Administrative Assistant, Department of Political Science, 229 North Stevens Hall, no later than Friday, March 31, 2023, by noon. 

The essays must be between 2,000–5,000 words in length and have two cover sheets: one with the  title only, the other with the student’s name and contact information. Adherence to the Style Manual for Political Science, APA or other standard style reference is highly encouraged. A complete bibliography must accompany the essay and proper citation be followed throughout.  

Judging criteria include: 

  • Clarity of issue identification and thesis 
  • Strength of argument and analysis  
  • Quality of research  
  • Coherence of organization and grammar  

The evaluation committee reserves the right not to award any prize money if it determines that no essay meets its standards.

Questions about the contest may be directed to Robert Ballingall, assistant professor of political science, at