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Christine Morganti
(505) 797-6028

Ambitious Essay Writers Get the Prize


Putting a cool grand in your pocket just for writing an essay is a pretty good deal. Many juniors and seniors in New Mexico thought so too, as 187 of them grabbed at the chance to win the big prize.  Three of them will go to college with a little extra money in their pockets and some legal writing experience for their resumes as winners in the James T. Sperling High School Essay Contest, offered by the State Bar of New Mexico and sponsored by the Modrall Sperling Roehl Harris & Sisk law firm since 1997.


This year’s topic, The “Facts,” dealt with First Amendment Freedom of Speech issues arising when, in violation of school policy, a student posts suggestive photos of herself on a popular teen networking website. The State Bar of New Mexico, the Public Legal Education Commission, the New Mexico State Bar Foundation, and the Modrall Sperling Law Firm are proud to announce the following winners.


First Place–$1,000: Jordan Pruett is a junior at Oñate High School in Las Cruces where he takes mostly advanced classes, including AP English language and composition. He is involved in extracurricular activities, including his LDS Church Youth Group, the Boy Scouts of America, and his school orchestra. He was the Rio Grande Rotary Club Student of the Month and will soon be an Eagle Scout. While still in the decision-making stage, Pruett is considering BYU, the University of Chicago, and Rice University.


Second Place–$500: Ellen Rabin is a junior at Los Alamos High School where she enjoys taking AP classes in math and the social sciences. A member of National Honor Society and LAHS French Club, Rabin also volunteers at Barranca Mesa Elementary School assisting the ESL teacher.  In addition, she has represented New Mexico in National History Day at the national level for four years and is president of the LAHS National History Day Society. Her long-standing interest in the law is fostered by her volunteer work with an attorney for the Los Alamos Teen Court and by her participation on the court’s Truancy Panel. She hopes to be an attorney and plans to attend St. John’s College or UC Berkeley.


Third Place–$250: James Billingham is a senior at Valley High School in Albuquerque. An active member in many extracurricular activities, Billingham maintains a 4.3 grade point average. He won “Outstanding Witness” in 2009 in Mock Trial and was an attorney in the 2010 competition. He is in the National Honor Society, Youth Court, M.E.S.A (vice president), Valley Academy Senate, and is president of Valley’s Model U.N. He works at Subway and is planning on attending UNM to study law.


The three winners will receive their prizes at the Albuquerque Bar Association’s annual Law Day Luncheon, May 5, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Albuquerque. The winners and families, guests of the State Bar, will be recognized by the legal community for their accomplishments.


The annual contest is intended to foster an appreciation of the law and provide practical legal writing experience. Held annually as part of Law Day observances, the contest is open to all New Mexico high school juniors and seniors. Those who accept the challenge are asked to author an essay in response to a scenario based on a current legal issue. Each essay is reviewed by a preliminary judging panel. The top few are then sent to three members of the judiciary who ultimately decide the winners.


The State Bar of New Mexico was organized in 1886 and is composed of more than 8500 members. Its purposes are to aid the courts in administering justice and preserving the rule of law, and to foster a high standard of integrity and competence within the legal profession.