Hon. Constance Baker Motley Essay Competition- Honorable Mention Winner

The Federal Bar Association’s Hon. Constance Baker Motley Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Young Member Essay Competition is created to celebrate the life of Hon. Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005) and promote her legacy by encouraging law students and younger federal practitioners to promote, achieve, and sustain diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession.

The competition is named after Judge Baker Motley, the first African American woman appointed to the federal judiciary and the first woman judge in the Southern District of New York. She was a key leader of the African American civil rights movement, a lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough president of Manhattan, New York City.

Lauren DiMartino, Honorable Winner of the Hon. Constance Baker Motley Essay Competition

Publishing the Way to Diversity and Inclusion in Federal Practice
Scholarly publications create a competitive edge for judicial clerkships, and thus serve as a pipeline to the federal courts. Yet the “elite” group of students that tend to publish is all too frequently composed of an overwhelmingly white, male majority which, in turn, results in an overwhelmingly white, male bench. To create a federal court that looks more like the country it serves, the bar must support scholarly publication opportunities for those who have been historically excluded.

For law students from underrepresented populations, legal scholarship also encourages a deeper commitment to the profession. As more students understand the systemic inequities embedded in the law, many may feel “alienated by their legal education, by certain theoretical perspectives, or by specific doctrines[.]” Engaging in the development of legal scholarship, often individually with a professor with shared academic interest, can be a validating experience unparalleled in standard curriculum.

It is rarely a student’s ability that restrains them, but rather the appearance of publishing as inaccessible, financial and time commitments, and access to quality mentorship. Creating a more representative federal bar means accounting for a student’s familial and financial obligations, including addressing the obstacles to publication that are greater for less privileged students. Programs that support historically-excluded students in the research, writing, editing, and submission process, while removing the barriers of access to publication, is the key a more diverse and inclusive federal bar.

For example, in developing such a program, law schools and bar associations could:

  1. Host evening or weekend sessions while providing free childcare and meals to increase access for part-time working students, parents, and those experiencing financial or food insecurities;
  2. Make all programming accessible for students with disabilities;
  3. Assign all students faculty mentors;
  4. Refrain from requiring certain grades or law review involvement to participate; and
  5. Waive, subsidize, or cover the cost for student journal submissions.

Adopting these measures would honor the legacy of Judge Baker Motley by diversifying the pool of legal scholars and, in turn, future generations of federal practitioners.

Butinclusion is more than providing access to an inequitable system. Published work not only lifts the voices of its author, but the voices of the communities from which the authors come and whom they write about. Those fortunate enough to publish their research become the professionals teaching the next generation of lawyers, penning textbooks, and deciding the outcome of cases. Diversifying the authors of content studied and cited by courts and lawyers will undoubtedly expand the topics and perspectives represented—but, more importantly—present a more realistic depiction of the issues.


[1]Demography of Article III Judges, 1789-2020, Fed. Jud. Ctr., http://www.fjc.gov/history/exhibits/graphs-and-maps/gender.

[2] Ruthann Robson, Law Students As Legal Scholars: An Essay/review of Scholarly Writing for Law Students and Academic Legal Writing, 7 N.Y. City L. Rev. 195, 196 (2004).

[3] The author of this article developed such a program 2017. Participants were 90% women, 68% persons of color, and 100% wrote about social justice.

About the Author

Lauren DiMartino is an attorney at Brown Goldstein & Levy, where she represents clients across various areas of civil rights law, including fair housing, education and disability rights, police misconduct, and appellate litigation. She previously served as a clerk for Judge Martha Craig Daughtry on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and as a Legal Fellow at the University of Colorado School of Law’s Byron White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law where she researched the potential for new civil rights legislation, analyzed trends in national injunctions, and helped develop new initiatives around voting and civic engagement.

Lauren’s legal experience has centered on education equity, constitutional law, anti-discrimination, and government misconduct. Lauren graduated from the City University of New York School of Law, a public-interest program, with a concentration in Social Justice, Equality, and Civil Rights. At CUNY Law, she served as the Student Authorship Editor of the Law Review where she developed a program geared at supporting the scholarship of historically-excluded law students. She was a research assistant on fair housing and issues surrounding higher education and professional access for undocumented students and professionals. In the Equality and Justice Clinic, Lauren worked primarily on cases involving police misconduct and employment law. She has published her research on the opportunity gap in higher education, federal litigation for systematic change in public schools, reproductive rights, and the democratic jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Lauren worked in marketing before transitioning to work in New York City community colleges because of her commitment to racial and economic justice. She was inspired by her students to attend law school as a tool to better advocate for marginalized communities. She remains active in higher education work, and is on the Advisory Boards of the Urban Studies Program at Guttman Community College (CUNY) and of Baltimore Youth Arts. She has also taught persuasive legal writing and oral advocacy as adjunct faculty in CUNY Law’s lawyering program.

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