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Foundation Announces High School Essay Contest Winners

On June 15, the Anne Arundel County Bar Foundation announced the winners of its annual high school essay contest.

  

Does a state have the right to deny a request for a specialty license plate bearing an image of the Confederate flag—or is this a violation of the First Amendment? While the Supreme Court is still considering the case of Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, hundreds of Anne Arundel County high school students have already issued their verdicts as participants in the annual Anne Arundel County Bar Foundation High School Essay Contest.

For this year's essay contest, high school students were invited to express their opinions on a current Supreme Court case (Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Case No. 14-144) that will decide whether a state violates the First Amendment by refusing to issue a specialty license plate bearing an image of the Confederate flag.

The contest was open to all public and private high school students, grades 9-12, and home-schooled students corresponding to the same grade levels. More than 180 Anne Arundel County high school students submitted essays for this year's competition, presenting the contest judges with a difficult decision. As in past years, South River High School was well-represented in the pool of entries and ultimately claimed two of the top three prizes. The winners were:

1st Place ($500): Tatiana Wu, sophomore, South River High School
2nd Place ($250): Alexander McGrath, Severna Park High School
3rd Place ($100): Elizabeth Bauckman, South River High School

The three top students will receive their awards later this month during a special ceremony in the Historic Courtroom of the Circuit Court in Annapolis. The Honorable Timothy Meredith of the Court of Special Appeals will present the awards. Judge Meredith and his wife Kathleen founded the contest and have sponsored it for the past 16 years. During that time, nearly 2,600 county students have participated in the competition.

In addition to Judge Meredith, several long-standing members of the Anne Arundel Bar Association served as contest judges: Chris Brown, Brown & Getka, PA; Nancy Faulkner, Director of Court Operations for the Anne Arundel Circuit Court; Hon. Glenn Klavans, judge, Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; and Bill Roessler, retired Deputy State's Attorney for Anne Arundel County.

In the end, two of the three winners argued that symbols and messages on specialty license plates represent private speech, rather than government speech, and are protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans later this month.

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