An Analysis of Plan Texts from the Elimination Rounds of the 2021 NDCA and TOC

As part of my research on the evolution of plan texts in policy debate, I compiled the plan texts read by affirmative teams in the elimination rounds of the 2021 NDCA National Championship and Tournament of Champions.

In total, there were 49 elimination rounds at the NDCA and TOC. Thirty-six plan texts are included in this sample. Missing plan texts are due to two factors: I excluded critical affirmatives without traditional plan texts, and I was unable to locate the 1ACs from a few debates.

For reference, the 2020-2021 resolution was:

Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.

What observations can be made about this collection of NDCA and TOC elimination round plan texts?

1. Plan texts ranged in length from 17 words to 85 words. The average plan text length was 40 words; the median plan text was 33 words. For reference, the resolution was 26 words; the median plan text was slightly more than 25% longer than the resolution.

2. All 36 plans included the phrase “The United States federal government should;” none explicitly specified a particular branch of government as their actor.

3. Twenty-three plans (64%) included the phrase “The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform;” adding the three plans that included the phrase “establish substantial criminal justice reform,” a total of 26 plans (72%) included the phrase “substantial criminal justice reform.”

4. Twenty-six plans (72%) used the verb “enact.” The alternative verbs used were “abolish,” “prohibit,” “amend,” “establish,” “bar via criminal penalty,” and “reform.”

5. Eleven plans (30%) included the phrase “policing and/or sentencing” (or “sentencing and/or policing”); another used the phrase “policing and sentencing.” Overall, twenty-five plans (69%) included the word “policing,” sixteen (44%) included “sentencing,” and two (5%) included “forensic science.”

As this analysis demonstrates, the “state of the art” plan text in high school policy debate in 2021 tends to be relatively short and mirrors some or most of the resolution’s language. A common method of plan writing is to mirror the resolution’s wording and add a “by…” clarifying clause. These clauses sometimes specify a “direction” for the proposed policy; other times, they merely specify an area or issue without committing to any particular policy direction. Few (if any) plans include significant details clarifying their mandates, implementation, or enforcement.

A discussion of the merits of this plan writing approach is beyond the scope of this article. My goal in collecting this data was merely to provide a resource that I (and others) can reference in the future.

The plan texts are compiled below. Any errors are my own; if I made any mistakes, please post corrections in the comments.


NDCA Double-Octafinals (includes 9 of 13 debates)

Bellarmine: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in policing and/or sentencing with regard to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. [28 words]

Caddo Magnet: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the area of policing and/or sentencing of corporate crime. The scope of that reform should, at least, include substantially curtailing federal statutes that criminally penalize commercial activities. [39 words]

Carrollton: The United States federal government should enact a flexible standard regarding the handling of digital evidence for criminal cases and create an independent federal entity in charge of accredited national certification for criminal digital forensic science in the United States. [40 words]

GBN: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States necessary in light of governing case law in criminally policing tobacco corporations and their advertising instead of people. [33 words]

Notre Dame: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the area of policing by expanding the mandate of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review, advise, and counsel on surveillance technologies and methods and adequately empower the PCLOB to provide such oversight. [47 words]

Peninsula: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform to judicial criminal evaluation of geoambiguous criminal and hybrid statutes in the United States. [25 words]

St. Mark’s: The United States federal government should abolish the human death penalty and life-without-parole because they are a violation of dignity. [20 words]

Woodward 1: Using its authority under the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish all badges and incidents of slavery, the United States federal government should prohibit racially discriminatory criminal policing in the United States, including by banning discriminatory policing practices, disarming police of military weapons, requiring community control and collective self-determination over policing, removing legal barriers preventing police accountability, creating an independent division of the Department of Justice to remedy civil rights violations by police, and withholding federal policing funds unless state and local governments comply with these mandates. [85 words]

Woodward 2: Using its authority under the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish all badges and incidents of slavery, the United States federal government should prohibit racially discriminatory policing in the United States, including by banning discriminatory policing practices, disarming police of military weapons, requiring community control and collective self-determination over policing, removing legal barriers preventing police accountability, creating an independent division of the Department of Justice to remedy civil rights violations by police, and withholding federal policing funds unless state and local governments comply with these mandates. [84 words]

NDCA Octafinals (includes 6 of 8 debates)

Caddo Magnet: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the area of policing and/or sentencing of corporate crime, curtailing criminal penalties on commercial activities. [27 words]

Calvert Hall: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform of Internal Revenue Service tax crime policing of high income individuals in the United States. [26 words]

North Broward: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in habeas corpus procedure in sentencing by establishing innocence as an independent ground for a habeas petition and mandating a court-imposed remedy for petitioners who won their hearing in the United States. [43 words]

Valley International: The United States Federal Government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in the area of forensic science to the Federal Rule of Evidence 702. [28 words]

Washburn Rural: The United States federal government should enact a flexible standard regarding the handling of digital evidence including the creation of an improved Internet of Things based digital forensics model and create an accredited national certification entity for digital forensic scientists in the United States. [44 words]

Woodward: Using its authority under the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish all badges and incidents of slavery, the United States federal government should prohibit racially discriminatory policing in the United States, including by banning discriminatory policing practices, disarming police of military weapons, requiring community control and collective self-determination over policing, removing legal barriers preventing police accountability, creating an independent division of the Department of Justice to remedy civil rights violations by police, and withholding federal policing funds unless state and local governments comply with these mandates. [84 words]

NDCA Quarterfinals (includes 3 of 4 debates)

GBN: The United States federal government should substantially amend criminal penalties in the United States in policing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act by clarifying the definition of a foreign agent. [30 words]

Notre Dame: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the area of policing by expanding the mandate of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review, advise, and counsel on surveillance technologies and methods and adequately empower the PCLOB to provide such oversight. [47 words]

Woodward: Using its authority under the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish all badges and incidents of slavery, the United States federal government should prohibit racially discriminatory policing in the United States, including by banning discriminatory policing practices, disarming police of military weapons, requiring community control and collective self-determination over policing, removing legal barriers preventing police accountability, creating an independent division of the Department of Justice to remedy civil rights violations by police, and withholding federal policing funds unless state and local governments comply with these mandates. [84 words]

NDCA Semifinals (includes 2 of 2 debates)

GBN: The United States federal government should substantially amend criminal penalties in the United States in policing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act by clarifying the definition of a foreign agent. [30 words]

Notre Dame: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the area of policing and/or sentencing by enacting a federal crime of domestic terrorism. [26 words]

NDCA Finals (includes 1 of 1 debate)

Bellarmine: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in policing and/or sentencing with regard to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. [28 words]

TOC Run-Off (includes 5 of 6 debates)

Bellarmine: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in policing and/or sentencing through dynamic incorporation. [22 words]

GBN: The United States federal government should bar via criminal penalty the surveillance of United States persons by members of the United States armed forces for domestic policing purposes, unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or an Act of Congress.

Mamaroneck: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States by enacting a substantial reform of policing, sentencing of corporate corruption. [66 words]

Northside: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in policing and sentencing the aiding and abetting of human rights violations codified in U.S. criminal law by foreign corporations that are organized under U.S. law or listed on U.S. exchanges. [46 words]

SLC West: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform through creating new sentencing guidelines in cases involving transgender prisoners, including at least: limited discretion by actors at sentencing, case-by-case consideration of personal characteristics, and deference to the rehabilitative model. [41 words]

TOC Octafinals (includes 7 of 8 debates)

Bellarmine 1: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in policing and/or sentencing by at least decriminalizing psychoactive substances. [25 words]

Bellarmine 2: The United States federal government should establish substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in sentencing and/or policing of marijuana through interstate agreement. [24 words]

Caddo Magnet: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in policing and/or sentencing by prohibiting first use of nuclear weapons. [22 words]

Chaminade: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform that defines use, import, and export of fossil fuels, by corporations or governments, as a crime of strict liability and imposes a penalty on corporate and government emitters, importers, and exporters of $50 million per 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. [54 words]

GBN: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States necessary in light of governing case law in criminally policing tobacco corporations and their advertising instead of people. [33 words]

MBA: The United States federal government should reform criminal sentencing structures via a National Court of Criminal Appeals.

Northside: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform that creates a framework for law enforcement hacking that is conducted in the United States for the purposes of criminal investigations. [50 words]

TOC Quarterfinals (includes 2 of 4 debates)

Chaminade: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform that defines use, import, and export of fossil fuels, by corporations or governments, as a crime of strict liability and imposes a penalty on corporate and government emitters, importers, and exporters of $50 million per 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. [54 words]

GBN: The United States federal government should enact reform in policing crime via letter of marque and reprisal. [17 words]

TOC Semifinals (includes 2 of 2 debates)

Bellarmine: The United States federal government should establish substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in sentencing and/or policing of marijuana through interstate agreement. [24 words]

Chaminade: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in sentencing by enacting, through dynamic incorporation and pursuant to inherent judicial authority, local rules of procedure that grant federal sentencing judges sole authority to issue sentencing discounts following criminal plea bargains. [43 words]

TOC Finals (includes 1 of 1 debate)

Bellarmine: The United States federal government should establish substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in sentencing and/or policing of marijuana through interstate agreement. [24 words]