HOMEPAGE  > 

Ninth Circuit Civics Contest

Civics Contest 2021 Announcement


The United States District Court in the Southern District of California is excited to announce the 2021 Civics Contest for high school students in the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. This essay and video contest offers cash prizes and a chance to meet some of the nation’s preeminent jurists and legal practitioners.

“What Does Our American Community Ask of Us?” is the theme of a civics contest focusing on how our Constitution both confers rights and establishes responsibilities. The Preamble that begins the Constitution speaks of the people’s commitment to “secure the blessings of liberty,” while also recognizing the need to “promote the general welfare.” Among the many rights enshrined in the Constitution, for example, are the right to peaceably assemble, the right to free exercise of religion, and the right to a speedy and public jury trial in criminal cases. The shelter-in-place orders implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, the rationing orders imposed during World War II and the Great Depression, and the mandatory smallpox vaccination programs instituted in the early 1900s are just some examples of times when we have been asked to curtail our normal freedoms for the benefit of our entire community. At the same time, each of us has a civic responsibility to participate in and contribute to our democracy. How should we as a society strike the appropriate balance within the framework of our Constitution between safeguarding our rights and fulfilling our responsibilities to each other? Students in grades 9-12 in public, private and parochial schools and home-schooled students of an equivalent grade status can write an essay or produce a short video on the topic. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California offers prizes of $1,000, $500, $250 to the top finishers in both the essay and video competition. The window for submissions is February 1st - April 15th, 2021.

All of the 15 federal courts in the Ninth Circuit hold local contests with winners going on to compete in the circuit-wide competition. At the circuit level, prizes of $3000, $1700, and $1000 will be awarded to first-, second- and third place winners in both the writing and video competition.

 Download Civics Contest Flyer  |   Download Civics Contest Rules

Source & Credit: Public Information Office - U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit - Contact: (415) 355-8930

2020 Southern District of California Finalists Finalists are the winners of the local contest sponsored by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California which offered prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 to the top finishers in both the essay and video competitions. The essay winners are: 1st place, Danielle Amir-Lobel, a Senior at La Jolla Country Day School; 2nd place, Yubeen (Amy) Cho a junior at La Jolla Country Day School ; 3rd place, Elinor Amir-Lobel, a junior also of La Jolla Country Day School. The winners of the video competition are: 1st place, the team of Jeremy Byrd, a sophomore at Poway High School and Taylor Rickert, a junior at Foothills Christian High School; 2nd place, Angel Zepeda, a senior at San Ysidro High School.

 View 2020 Civics Contest Finalist Official News Release


Past Civic Contest Winners


  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015

2020 Essay and Video Contest

The 2020 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is a circuit-wide essay and video competition for high school students. The contest focused on the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to persons of color, and the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which accorded those same rights to women. The goal is to inform young people about their constitutional rights in order to help them become knowledgeable citizens while giving them a chance to express themselves in a creative manner by writing an essay and/or producing a video.

Now in its fifth year, the contest is organized by the Ninth Circuit’s Public Information and Community Outreach (PICO) Committee in collaboration with all of the federal courts in the circuit.

2020 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Circuit Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Circuit Winning Videos


2020 DISTRICT Winners:
 Read the District Winning Essays

2019 Essay and Video Contest

The 2019 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is a circuitwide essay and video competition for high school students. The contest focused on the role of the judicial branch in preserving our constitutional rights. The goal is to help young people to become knowledgeable citizens who are better able to participate in our democracy. Now in its fourth year, the contest is organized by the Ninth Circuit Courts and Community Committee in collaboration with all of the federal courts in the circuit.

The theme of the 2019 contest was “The 4th Amendment in the 21st Century—What is an ‘Unreasonable Search and Seizure’ in the Digital Age?” Students were challenged to write an essay or produce a short video focusing on how the federal courts have applied 4th Amendment protections to electronic data devices, particularly the cellphones upon which almost everyone relies.

2019 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Circuit Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Circuit Winning Videos


2019 DISTRICT Winners:
 Read the District Winning Essays

2018 Essay and Video Contest

The 2018 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is a circuitwide essay and video competition for high school students. The contest focuses on the individual rights and governmental limitations ensconced in the Constitution. The goal is helping young people to become knowledgeable citizens who are better able to participate in our democracy. Now in its third year as a circuit-wide event, the contest is organized by the Ninth Circuit Courts and Community Committee in collaboration with all of the federal courts in the circuit.

The theme of the 2018 contest was “The 14th Amendment 150 Years After Ratification: What Does Equal Protection Mean to Students?” Students were asked to write an essay or produce a short video explaining how Congress and the federal courts have applied the Equal Protection Clause to public education, whether in admissions, classrooms or on athletic fields

2018 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Winning Videos


2018 DISTRICT Winners:
 Read the District Winning Essays

2017 Essay and Video Contest

Young people from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Washington have been selected the winners of the 2017 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, an educational outreach effort sponsored by the federal courts.

“Not to Be Forgotten: Legal Lessons of the Japanese Internment” was the theme of the contest, which focused on the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens at the outset of World War II and its relevance today as our government seeks to protect the nation from terrorism. Students were challenged to write an essay or produce a short video focusing on legal decisions which sought to strike a balance between national security and civil rights at a time of great uncertainty.

​ More than 1,000 young people entered the contest, which offered cash prizes, an opportunity for travel, and a chance to meet some of the nation’s preeminent jurists and legal practitioners.

2017 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Winning Videos


2017 DISTRICT Winners:
 Read the District Winning Essays

2016 Essay and Video Contest

Young people from Arizona, California and the United States Territory of Guam have been selected the winners of the 2016 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, an educational outreach effort organized by the federal courts of the western states.

​ The contest, which was open to high school students in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions, focused on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The 1966 ruling requires that persons in the custody of law enforcement officers be informed prior to questioning of their constitutional rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during interrogation.

​ Students were challenged to write an essay or produce a short video on the topic. Teams of up to three students were allowed for video production. All told, more than 700 students entered the contest, which offered cash prizes and a chance to meet some of the nation’s preeminent jurists and legal practitioners. ​

2016 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Winning Videos

2015 Essay and Video Contest

All told, 303 students from 45 high schools in the greater San Diego area participated in the contest. Essays and videos were reviewed by panels of federal judges, attorneys, law clerks, staff attorneys and educators recruited from the Southern District and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Final judging panels picked 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in both contests plus two honorable mentions in the writing competition. The winners will receive generous cash prizes while all participating students will receive a commendation recognizing their efforts.

We are extremely pleased with the success of this effort to better inform young people about our democracy, particularly the judicial branch. Our thanks to the federal bench and bar, court and circuit staff, the San Diego educational community and the many others who contributed to this very worthwhile endeavor.

2015 CIRCUIT Winners:
 Read the Winning Essays  | 
 Watch the Winning Videos