Human Rights Essay Contest Guidelines

The International Law Section sponsors this annual essay contest as part of its commitment to provide information and guidance on international human rights issues to Texas lawyers and law students. The contest is open to any law student with a personal or essay nexus to Texas (e.g. Texas law school, Texas resident, topic addressing Texas, etc.).


A first-place prize of $1,500 will be awarded for the best entry as judged by representatives from the Section. If sufficient entries are received, second and third place prizes may also be given. The winner(s) will also be publicly recognized at the Annual Institute. Additionally, essay(s) may be offered publication in the Section’s International Newsletter.


Submissions are due April 1, 2024 on or before 11:59 PM (Central Time) prior to the Annual Institute and should be sent by email attachment to Diana Marin at The email should have the subject header “State Bar of Texas International Law Section Writing Contest” and contain the contact information for the author(s). The contestant’s name and other identifying markings such as school name are not to be listed in the attachment.


The essay may address any aspect of international human rights law that the contestant chooses. There are no minimum or maximum word limits, and papers should be double-spaced, with twelve-point font and one-inch margins.


The first-place winner will be required to submit a completed W-9 form prior to receiving the award and is responsible for all taxes associated with the award. The ideas and work reflected by each entry must be the author’s or author’s own. This contest is governed by U.S. law and all relevant federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply. The winner will be required to submit proof of eligibility.


Shelby Lepley, SMU Law Student

The State Bar of Texas International Law Section (ILS) announces that Shelby Lepley, a 2024 Juris Doctorate Candidate of SMU Dedman School of Law, took first place in its annual Human Rights Essay Contest.

Lepley’s winning essay titled, “Fighting with Food: Prosecuting The War Crime of Starvation,” was published in the 2023 Spring/Summer issue of the ILS International Newsletter and earned her a $1,500 cash prize.

Lepley was recognized at the 32nd Annual Institute held April 20, 2024 at the SMU Rowling Center for Business Law & Leadership in Dallas.

The Texas Access to Justice Contribution