Alabama Law Student Wins Ninth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

May 19, 2017

Alabama Law student Gonzalo E. Rodriguez recently won the Ninth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition.

His essay, “Protecting Inland Waterways, from the Institutes of Gaius to Magna Carta,” was chosen as the winner of the contest sponsored by the Legal History & Rare Books Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries.

The essay examines how the civilizations of Ancient Rome, the Visigothic Kingdom and England managed water resources in very different ways. It surveyed the geographic, climatic and political realities of these civilizations as a means of understanding the factors that guide civilizations in their decision whether, and to what extent, to regulate and protect their waterways.

“Rodriguez’s essay built upon an interesting thesis, and he applied extensive research in creating a well-written, engaging analysis of the ways several societies through history have dealt with protecting their waterways and the logic behind those societies’ methods,” said Fred Dingledy, Senior Reference Librarian at the College of William & Mary’s Wolf Law Library.

Rodriguez, a rising third-year law student, said he was honored to win the contest.

“After spending so many beautiful Alabama spring weekends in the mustiest parts of the library, being recognized for my work is truly vindicating,” he said.  “I am not sure if I will get a chance to cite the Visigothic Code in a legal brief anytime soon, but it sure makes for a great ice-breaker.”

The idea was roughly conceived during Professor Heather Elliott’s Water Law course. Rodriguez later enrolled in Librarian Paul Pruitt’s English Legal History course with the hopes of bringing the idea to fruition.

“It was as a result of his instruction and guidance that I developed the historical inquisitiveness I needed to transform a very rudimentary idea into this final work,” Rodriguez said.

He will present his paper at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting on Sunday, July 16, in Austin, Texas. He will receive a $500 cash prize from Gale Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attending the meeting.

The essay will be published later this year in Unbound: A Review of Legal History and Rare Books. To read the essay, visit SSRN: