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Times Law Essay Competition 2012 Calendar

The Tennessee Bar Assocation Young Lawyers Division (TBA YLD) has announced the winners of the 2012 Tennessee Law Day Art and Essay Competitions.

Each May, in conjunction with the national Law Day celebration, the YLD hosts an art and essay contest for students in the state. The contests are designed to give young people the opportunity to express their ideas about living in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and achieve statewide recognition for their work.

The theme is set each year by the American Bar Association, which partners with state and local legal organizations that hold programs and events around the country to mark Law Day. The purpose of celebrating Law Day is two-fold: (1) to instill in students an appreciation for the law and foster a greater understanding of the American judicial system, and (2) provide an opportunity for attorneys to serve their local communities.

The theme of this year’s contest was: "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” which asked students to consider the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans. Download a more detailed description of the theme

Students receive cash prizes for their winning entries. Look for a display of winning entries at the TBA Convention in Memphis this June.

The YLD would like to thank Jackson lawyer Ashley Holliday with West Tennessee Legal Services for serving as this year’s state Law Day Art and Essay Contest coordinator.

Essay Competition Winners


First Place 

Second Place

Third Place 

Excerpts from First Place Essay
The Courts: The Conscience of America
By Gloria Yu

[The courts] play a special role in the lives of all Americans, impacting not just...those [living] in the present, but also those to come in the future. If [the courts] were to disappear, Americans would cease to see the justice and freedom they so dearly cherish.

It is this freedom our founding fathers wished to preserve from encroachment. That is why the court's most fundamental functions [are] to interpret the laws passed by Congress and declare the constitutionality of executive actions. Without the presence of the courts, there would be no branch of government to look out for the interests of the people, and...legislative and executive branches could abuse their power...

...In these hard economic times [though], courts have been more understaffed than...in decades. Ironically, it is during these times that society needs the guidance of the courts more than ever. The courts are what the heart is to the body: they are the conscience of the nation, the bloodline to the preservation of justice and freedom. [In] order to preserve freedom for all Americans, the nation must save the courts.

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Michael Connelly Wins 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

By Molly McDonough


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Michael Connelly
Photo by Terrill Lee Lankford

Michael Connelly’s legal thriller The Fifth Witness has been named the winner of the 2nd Annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

The Fifth Witness, which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List, features a recurring Connelly book character, the maverick Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Haller, who after having taken on foreclosure cases represents a woman accused of killing the banker threatening to take her home away. Haller, also known as “The Lincoln Lawyer,” inspired the 2011 Hollywood movie of the same name.

After a close vote, Connelly was selected from among three finalists, including Robert Dugoni, author of Murder One, and David Ellis, author of Breach of Trust.

“This is a fantastic honor, not only for its association with Ms. Lee but because it seeks to highlight the very important and honorable role of lawyers in society,” Connelly said Tuesday. “When I was 13 and spending hot summer days in the air conditioning afforded by the Fort Lauderdale public library, a librarian made me read To Kill a Mockingbird. I discovered a story about a lawyer who was forthright and willing to do the right thing, even at great risk and cost to himself and those he loved. That is the definition of hero I have endeavored to capture in my own work. This honor tells me I’m on the right track.”

On this year’s Harper Lee Prize Selection Committee were New York Times best-selling novelist Linda Fairstein; former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; New York Times best-selling novelist Lisa Scottoline; NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams. The committee sifted through 40 submissions before choosing the three finalists and picking the winner. They also considered the results of an online public poll at ABAJournal.com, which counted as one vote.

The prize will be presented at a ceremony and panel discussion hosted by the selection committee on Sept. 20, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress. Connelly will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.

The prize, created by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal, honors Lee for the extraordinary and enduring influence her novel has had in the public perception of the legal profession. The prize will be awarded annually to the published book-length work of fiction that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. Author John Grisham won the inaugural prize last year for his book The Confession.

Ken Randall, dean of the University of Alabama law school, said Tuesday that Connelly’s book is a worthy successor to John Grisham’s Harper Lee Prize-winning book last year.

“The prize helps perpetuate the best traditions of legal fiction established by Alabama’s former student, the legendary Harper Lee,” Randall said. “Mr. Connelly’s book effectively portrays the critical difference lawyers can make on their clients’ lives and more generally on justice. Resourceful lawyers of different backgrounds, whether like Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, or Connelly’s Mickey Haller, play a pivotal role in society.”

Connelly, a veteran journalist and past president of the Mystery Writers of America, has sold more than 45 million books worldwide. He lives with his family in Florida.

For More on Books:

ABA Journal (Gallery): “30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read”

The Modern Law Library: With podcasts featuring authors and news about law-related books

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