JD student wins Governor-General's Prize for constitutional law essay

This month JD student Marcus Roberts was awarded the prestigious Governor-General's Prize for his essay on the Magna Carta and its ongoing significance in Australia.

Marcus Roberts wins Governor-General’s Prize

Image courtesy of cefa.org.au

Marcus was announced as the winner at a reception at Government House in Canberra, hosted by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

The second year JD student says a highlight was meeting the Governor-General and five sitting High Court judges.

“It’s nice to be able to connect a person to the judgments you spend so much time reading.”

Marcus’ essay explored the topical issue of freedom of speech, in the context of recent amendments to Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). It defended the maxim “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

MLS Professor Adrienne Stone praised Marcus’ efforts addressing important issues through the essay.

“Marcus' paper addresses one of the major public policy controversies of recent years and the really complex constitutional issues underlying it.”

Speaking at the event, Sir Peter Cosgrove said the competition was an opportunity for law students to make the Constitution accessible to everyone, not just the legally trained.

“You take something that could be abstract and the esoteric— the domain of a privileged few—and you ensure it remains relevant, accessible and of service to all,” said Sir Peter.

Making law accessible is something Marcus hopes to do not just with his essay, but with a future career in public law as well.

For Marcus, studying law offers an opportunity to think about the structure of an argument in-depth.

“I like thinking about arguments. I also like thinking about the ways in which society orders itself — how those ways change, how they’re deficient. So for me, law sits in the middle of this Venn diagram.”

Nevertheless, he recalls a time when legal writing was a challenge.

“Like most people, I’ve found studying law to be very different from my previous study and work. But I think that MLS has been a great place to make the transition, he says.”

“MLS recognises that it’s a big change, and the people that are on hand to help — particularly the librarians and staff at the Legal Academic Skills Centre — do a fantastic job.”

By Blake Connell