Court Records Scholarship

The Long Road to Justice

What is justice? It’s a topic that hundreds of philosophers have struggled with. From legends like Aristotle, Plato, and Immanuel Kant to modern political philosophers such as John Rawls and Nancy Fraser. And yet the question remains.

The subject of justice is particularly complex because it is ineluctably layered with ethical, religious, and legal philosophies. Justice for one person isn’t necessarily the same for another. And yet, it’s an important question every aspiring professional must ask; at least once in their lifetime. The answer may not always be found in the works of historical or modern philosophers but in the records, facts, evidence, and information.

Ideally, the law is just. Laws are made to foster equity, equality, and fairness. The law assumes a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Even when found guilty, the punishment for the crime must not outweigh the offense.

Access to Justice and Public Records

Access to justice broadly describes the right of a person to be heard, to hold the government accountable, demand fairness, and equity. It also describes a person’s right to appear and be represented in court. In modern days, access to justice is inseparable from access to accurate, credible information. Oftentimes, the source for consistent, credible, and accurate information is the public agencies and organization, the official custodians of public records.

Public Records

Public records contain information maintained by government organizations and agencies and made available to the general public in accordance with the applicable Freedom of Information Law. It includes information collected and maintained on persons within a government agency’s jurisdiction, such as arrest records maintained by the police department, court records maintained by the court clerks, and inmate records maintained by the Department of Criminal Justice. Public records also include information on the activities, decisions, and meetings of those public agencies, bodies, and organizations.

The Contest is pleased to present a college scholarship Essay Competition for the 2021 school year. There will be three winners:

  1. First place $1,500
  2. Second place $500
  3. Third place $500

The Scholarship Essay Competition is aimed at college students. An opportunity to understand the role of public records in access to justice, to learn the best practices in public records searches first hand and to prepare for a career of a lifetime.

The Application

The application START DATE is September 1st, 2020 and the END DUE DATE is September 1st, 2021. To enter the contest, interested applicants must fill out the application form completely. The essay must include a personal statement (clarified in the 2nd essay question). ALL sources used in the essay must have the proper citation. Most preferred writing formats are MLA and APA. Your essay will contain a minimum word count of 1,000 words and a maximum of 1,500 words. Include your first and last name at the top of your document.

Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their state’s public records law and local regulations on requesting public records. It might be very helpful to read up on the use of case law, understanding the principles behind different reported cases and their role in the administration of justice.

Please note that by participating in this competition, you give the right to publish any article you submit. Any article submitted to participate in the scholarship competition including those not awarded the scholarship prize may be published on

Please carefully read through the Scholarship Terms before applying.

Essay Questions:

  1. How does having clear and prompt access to court records help you as a professional?
    • How do they help prevent future crime?
  2. How do your local news-people, government officials, and legal professionals view the issue? (interviews encouraged!)