Parker Lewton Wins ABA’s Public Contract Law Writing Competition

The winning paper focused on the intersection of government contracting and refugee resettlement.

February 08, 2017

Parker Lewton, 3L, won first place in Division I of the 2016 ABA Section of Public Contract Law Writing Competition. The competition is conducted in two divisions. Each division was judged separately, and separate prizes were awarded to the winners of each division.

The writing competition provides monetary awards to law students and young lawyers for outstanding papers that address a topical issue of interest to the public contract and grant law community. Mr. Lewton, whose focus is in government contracts at GW Law, wrote about the intersection of government contracting and refugee resettlement in his paper, "From the Mouth of a Shark: Refugee Resettlement and the Need for Procurement Contracts."

The United States provides assistance to international and non-governmental organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The government also works with nine non-profit, voluntary agencies, commonly referred to as VOLAGs, which assist in resettling refugees domestically; however, commentators have questioned the commitment and motives of these agencies.

"Our government gives money to these intermediary agencies, who in turn, are responsible for resettling refugees. My paper addressed this government-intermediary relationship and the legal instrument through which the relationship is formed: the cooperative agreement," Mr. Lewton explains.

According to his paper, there are three primary reasons as to why procurement contracts should be used instead of cooperative agreements. He explains that the first two reasons are rooted in law. The third, he says, is political. "The resettlement process is failing fundamentally: Refugees are not being resettled as designed, taxpayer money is being wasted, and laws are being broken—the policy reasons alone justify the use of contracts," Mr. Lewton said. Procurement contracts would allow for the proper and adequate resettlement of refugees, minimizing waste and corruption in the process.

Mr. Lewton, who has had experience working in immigration law before attending law school, explains what inspired his work. "I sat down and tried to identify the point at which immigration law and government contracts intersect, which led my research ultimately to the area of refugee resettlement. The more I explored the topic, the more exciting it became," he said. This excitement allowed him to devote the necessary time to his research.

Next month, Mr. Lewton will present his research at the 23rd Annual Federal Procurement Institute in Annapolis, MD, where he will be speaking in front of more than 200 judges and practitioners. When asked about what this achievement means to him, he said, "I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to discuss my work with members of the field. I hope those in attendance will be as excited about my research as I am, and I hope that it will prompt what I feel is a much needed conversation."