The Honorable William A. Ingram American Inn of Court

This year the Honorable William A. Ingram American Inn of Court in San Jose, California, hosted its first student essay contest for the Inn’s law student members. This was one of the marquee projects of the Inn’s new Outreach and Service Committee. The committee was created as a way to increase the Inn’s contributions to its local community, promote works of service, and enhance pupillage mentorship. The committee developed an essay competition that would allow pupils to reflect on how participation in the Inn shapes their view of civility and the legal profession.

The Executive Committee approved the essay competition this past winter and devoted a $500 prize to the potential winner. While the Inn initially wanted students to write about the Inn’s effect on their legal views, the committee quickly realized in March that reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic would be a more important and pressing topic. The Inn solicited essay submissions on the following questions: How are pandemic issues affecting your thinking about the legal profession? How has participation in the Inn changed your mind about a legal topic, impacted your reasons for going to law school, or changed your approach to a career in the law?

The Inn received several excellent submissions. Ultimately, Tim Rosenberger’s compelling essay won the contest. Rosenberger is a first-year student at Stanford Law School. His essay focused on the pandemic’s effect on legal education, the American Bar Association (ABA), the judiciary, prisons, and summer legal internships. His essay was inspired by news in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where a municipal court refused to shut down during the pandemic and issued bench warrants for anyone who did not appear. The Ohio Supreme Court jumped into action and suspended the judge from the bench.

At the same time, Rosenberger watched how Ohio’s state government started releasing prisoners and experienced Stanford Law School suddenly moving finals and classes online. Rosenberger decided to use the essay as an opportunity to assess the pandemic’s effect on legal education, the efficacy of online teaching, the ABA’s response, and how all of this has influenced law students like him. He wrote, the “legal profession has risen to the challenges of the pandemic with a striking generosity of spirit. Lawyers came to the aid of prisoners kept in conditions that would have created unacceptable risks of infection, and many jurisdictions allowed incarcerated persons to return to their homes to serve their periods of detention in relative safety. At the same time, the judiciary has worked hard to preserve the rights of people availing themselves of the law.” The Inn congratulates Rosenberger for his wonderful essay submission. The Inn hopes to continue the essay contest.