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Penn JD/PhD Student Wins Writing Competition

May 24, 2010
Justin Simard

Most legal historians argue that the possibility for radical legal reform in the United States had largely passed by the early 19th century. But according to University of Pennsylvania student Justin Simard, that widely-held belief is misconceived. Simard, who is pursuing Penn’s cross-disciplinary JD/PhD in American Legal History, has just been named the winner of the Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition for the paper he wrote to support his provocative assertion.

In “The Citadel Must Open Its Gates to the People:” Judicial Reform at the 1821 New York Constitutional Convention, Simard examines the work of agrarian radicals in early 19th century New York. He bases his analysis on the Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the New York Constitutional Convention of 1821, as well as a variety of secondary sources, concluding that a strong, agrarian-based anti-legalist tradition persisted well into the 1800s.
As the recipient of the Morris L. Cohen award, Simard will receive a cash prize and financial support for attending the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting. The Morris L. Cohen prize is awarded annually by the Legal History and Rare Books Section of the AALL to encourage scholarship in the areas of legal history, rare law books, and legal archives, and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship.