In 2013, the Federal Judges Association and the Federal Bar Association jointly sponsored a national high school essay contest on “What a Fair and Impartial Judiciary Means to Me and to the United States.”
The national contest was held in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Judiciary Act of 1789. To provide background and context, students viewed “Court Shorts,” a short video discussing the role of the federal judiciary. Students from across the country then submitted essays, and the winning entries were selected by a panel of distinguished federal judges and lawyers. The winners were announced on May 20.
The first-place entry was submitted by Emma Ronzetti of the Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Fla. Ronzetti's entry discussed a recent mass conviction and sentencing to death of 529 people in an Egyptian court.
Ronzetti's essay contrasted the Egyptian court's approach with “the United States federal court system, which was designed to avoid sway by the majority, politics, and even the other branches of government.”
"As a direct result of impartiality in federal courts, I was able to attend G.W. Carver Middle School, a school that was once segregated," Ronzetti wrote. "I cannot begin to imagine life had I not gone to that school, or life without my best friend, Mya, who could not have attended with me in a segregated classroom."
The second-place entry was submitted by Charles Vojta of the Blake School in Minneapolis, Minn. Vojta examined the role of the federal courts as “trailblazers in guaranteeing procedural rights to defendants, which ultimately find their way incorporated into the state courts' procedure.”
"I think of all the functions of an independent federal judiciary, one of the most overlooked yet crucial roles it plays is guaranteeing procedural due process in every level of the court system, both state and federal," he wrote.
Tied for third-place were entries by Gabriel Rosen of Stuyvesant High School in New York, N.Y., and Beth Anne Leon of iPrep Academy in Miami, Fla.
Rosen discussed how the courts extend the protections that make him “able to participate in the democratic system to the fullest extent of my abilities canvassing for the candidate of my choice.”
Leon described the blindfold worn by Lady Justice, which represents “the ability of the court to view parties and arguments objectively, without persuasion toward or against the influence of money, power, weakness or skin color.”
The Federal Judges Association (FJA) is a national voluntary organization of United States federal judges, appointed pursuant to Article III of the Constitution, whose mission is to support and enhance the role of its members within a fair, impartial and independent judiciary; to actively build a community of interest among its members; and to sustain our system of justice through civics education and public outreach.