3L Alan Vester named co-winner of Judge John R. Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing

Photograph: Alan VesterThird-year Washburn Law student Alan Vester was named co-winner of the Judge John R. Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing for his note “Hybrid Immigration Preemption.” Vester’s win earned him a $10,000 scholarship as well as a $5,000 donation to a Washburn Law scholarship fund.

"This is an amazing personal achievement for Alan and the culmination of untold hours of hard work," said Joseph Mastrosimone, associate dean for academic affairs at Washburn Law. "It also is an amazing achievement for Washburn Law as an institution and shines a bright light on all of the excellent scholarly work going on here."

Vester’s note began as an article in the Washburn Law Journal. Executive Editor Jackson Wagner encouraged him to submit it to the contest, and Professor David Rubenstein helped him develop the piece for competition.

“I can't speak highly enough of Professor Rubenstein,” Vester said. “I've learned so much from him and I wouldn't have won this award without his help. He was very hands-on, making sure I understood the concepts underneath the piece. He probably reviewed 14 drafts before I sent it in.”

The note analyzes the Ninth Circuit’s so-called “hybrid” preemptions—combinations of constitutional and statutory legal doctrines which hold that Congress can preclude a state from enacting laws if the federal government has already settled the particular topic by decree. Vester examines the case Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, in which the court ruled that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) preempted Arizona’s policy of denying drivers’ licenses to recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He argues, among other conclusions, that the Ninth Circuit’s hybridization of various preemption tenets broke with Supreme Court precedent and failed to satisfactorily answer the issues raised by the case.

Vester tied for first place in the competition with Caroline Fisher from St. John’s University School of Law, and bested competitors from Yale Law School, the University of Colorado Law School, and Marquette University Law School. He credits Washburn Law faculty’s dedication to student success as a key factor in his achievement.

“We have a fantastic writing program at Washburn Law and students receive the faculty attention that other law schools don’t offer,” he said. “That one-on-one time, in addition to the support of the Washburn Law Journal, really helps develop us into high-caliber writers.”