First-year Students Continue to Impress Judges in the Triad of Annual LAWS Competitions
Year after year, judges comment on the intelligence, poise and preparedness of the first-year law students who participate in Southwestern's intramural advocacy competitions. The leading jurists from local, state and federal courts have come to expect a level of skill and professionalism that matches - and in some cases exceeds - the quality of arguments they regularly hear in their courtrooms. This year's outstanding cadre of 1L advocates did not disappoint.The culminating activity of Southwestern's unique three-track Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills (LAWS) program enabled first-year law students to participate in and receive recognition for excellence in appellate (moot court), negotiation or trial advocacy. Prominent members of the bench and bar served as judges for the final rounds in all three tracks.
During the Awards Banquet on April 6 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, where the oral advocacy winners were announced, Dean Austen Parrish praised the participants. "Southwestern is the only law school in the country to recognize the advantages of offering students the choices of a three-track LAWS program," he said. "All of the students were simply extraordinary in their competitions."
Following the mandatory rounds, a total of 237 students out of 368 participated in the Intramural rounds: 80 for Moot Court, 96 for Negotiation and 61 for Trial Advocacy. Those students receiving special recognition excelled in oral advocacy in one of the three competitions, and are eligible to interview this summer for membership in the Moot Court Honors Program, Negotiation Honors Program or Trial Advocacy Honors Program (TAHP). The top brief writers will be recognized in a separate reception on April 21; they too will be eligible to interview for membership in the advocacy honors programs.
Moot Court/Appellate Competition
SCALE student Melissa Vasquez won First Place Oralist in the Moot Court Competition, and Emma Lord (full-time day program) earned the Second Place Oralist title. "Arguing in front of such an esteemed group of judges was very exciting and this honor was definitely worth all of the work," Vasquez said. "What was most exciting was being able to represent the [two-year] SCALE program, since this is the first time that a SCALE student has won the competition. It felt great to make my LAWS teacher Professor Lorillard proud her retirement year."
Judges for the final bench included the Hon. Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court; Hon. Rebecca White Berch, Arizona Supreme Court; Hon. Louis B. Butler (ret.), Wisconsin Supreme Court; Hon. Rives Kitsler, Supreme Court of Oregon; and Hon. Charles R. Wilson, United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
"We have to keep reminding ourselves that you're first-year students," Judge Wilson said. "It's an extremely impressive competition and a tribute to your moot court program."
Justice Berch said the case was beautifully argued and that it came down to a divided vote on the winner. Justice Butler said that some of the arguments the competitors made were far better than what he regularly heard in court.
Kenneth Korosi (full-time day program) and Andrew Pruitt (SCALE program) were Semi-Finalist Oralists. Quarter-Final Oralists included Geoffrey Cleveland (part-time evening program), Mary Inglis (full-time day program), Rebecca Magenheim (full-time day program) and Adam Van Korlaar (full-time day program).
At the Ninth Circuit Courthouse in Pasadena this year, students addressed whether a reality television show participant could recover damages from a production company based on its editing of footage to portray her in a negative light on the show. The plaintiff had to show that the company knew or recklessly disregarded that its cut decisions distorted the truth. The problem required students to take both a specific and a broad view of the case law to reconcile seemingly conflicting case outcomes and apply them to the facts of the case. It also required students to consider conflicting policy considerations: on the one hand, the production company's right to free speech and, on the other, the state's interest in allowing recovery from damage arising from the publication of falsehoods that damage an individual's reputation.
"The semi-finalists and finalists I observed all did an amazing job at handling this factually rich and intellectually challenging problem," said Professor Tracy Turner, Director of the LAWS Program. "They held their poise during difficult questioning and provided on-point, convincing responses. Their ability to present such substantively accurate and insightful points is a tribute to their hard work throughout the 1L year and to their professors who have challenged them to adjust to the rigorous process of legal reasoning."
In the Negotiation Competition, where students argued in pairs, Jaye Kasper and Emilia Mehrabian (full-time day program) won First Place Advocates and Ryan Abelman and Scott Savage (part-time evening program) earned Second Place. Ari Emurian and Anoush Keskerian finished in Third Place, and Nathaniel Cowden and Nicole Christman took Fourth Place (all four are in the full-time day program).
"The competition in this year's intramurals was fierce," said Jonathan Evans, a member of the Negotiation Honors Program Board of Governors. "The students tackled legal issues including copyright, information technology, and small business partnerships. The quality of negotiating displayed by our first-year students demonstrates why Southwestern's Negotiation Honors Program has been so successful, and is a great sign of what's in store for next year."
For the final round, the teams negotiated a settlement between the fictional Authors Guild of Westmoreland and Doogle, a (fictional) prominent Internet company. With the launch of Doogle Books, AG had filed suit in the Central District, alleging multiple counts of copyright infringement. The parties met for a court-mandated settlement conference, with the hopes of structuring a digital rights registry and a comprehensive partnership as well as a settlement to the underlying litigation.
"I think Jaye and I had good chemistry," Mehrabian said. "Each round was full of surprises, but practicing together gave us the ability to react in unison to all of the challenges. Winning this competition has strengthened my belief in myself. I am no longer the shy eight-year-old girl who dreamed of going to law school. I have made my first mark and will not stop until I have fulfilled all of my dreams."
Judges for the final round of the Negotiation Competition included: Paul Bent '78, Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel, Goodsmith & Co.; Julie McAlarnen, Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers, LLP; Bernard Weitzman '62, President, Sussex Ltd.; and Angela Rose White '78, David Rose Publishing Company.
"This year the intramural competition was really tough," said Dean Nyree Gray '99, who serves as faculty advisor to Southwestern's Negotiation Honors Program, along with Professor Christina Knolton. "There was an abundance of talented people who participated in the competition so the final four teach were each exceptional. "
Trial Advocacy Competition
In the Trial Advocacy Competition, Calvin Love won Best Advocate and Kellian Summers earned Second Place Advocate (both are in the full-time day program). The Trial Advocacy Semifinalists were Janeith Hyacinth and Tera Lutz (both are in the full-time day program). Quarterfinalists included Ronnie Arenas (part-time day program), Monique Moncayo (part-time day program), Vira Samouhi (part-time evening program) and Gregory Selarz (full-time day program).
Professors Joseph Esposito and Bill Seki serve as Co-Chairs of Southwestern's TAHP program. "This year's TAHP competition was incredible," Professor Esposito said. "The student performances were truly first rate. Professor Seki and I were extremely impressed with the quality and creativity of this year's presentations. Nearly every student created an exhibit that was used as a persuasive tool during their closing arguments. This was the first year we have seen this level of preparation across the board. And the Championship Round, well, it can be summed up in a word: spectacular! The two finalists, Calvin Love and Kellian Summers, battled it out to a 2-to-1 split decision result. Both students performed at a level comparable to a seasoned litigator. It was such a pleasure to watch."
Judges for the final bench included Deborah Brazil '96, Deputy District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney, County of Los Angeles; Shawn Chapman Holley '88, Partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP; and Hon. David Walgren, Superior Court, State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Competitors argued a fictitious scenario arising from the facts of the case the 1Ls wrote about for their LAWS brief. In it, Emma Stone sued Holly Temple, a television producer, for portraying her in a false light, after Stone participated in a reality show that she claimed damaged her family life and professional reputation. After Temple turns up dead, Stone is charged with her murder, even though Temple has other enemies who may have had a motive to kill her, and there is also the possibility that Temple may have committed suicide.
According to Anastasia Sagorsky, Chair of the TAHP Board of Governors, "First-place advocate Calvin Love and second-place advocate Kellian Summers impressed the judges on the final bench. This prestigious panel praised the advocates for their poise, courtroom presence, witness control and strong analytical skills."