Precious Cargo Hardly Moot

May 15, 2019

Precious Cargo Hardly Moot

When this year’s Empire College School of Law team packed their bags to travel to the annual Roger J. Traynor Moot Court Competition, they were carrying more than their law books, business suits, and briefs (pun intended). They were carrying precious cargo; namely, the 2-foot sterling silver trophy that is passed from reigning champion to the next victor.

Law schools may not have sports teams, but they do have competitions that are their Super Bowl equivalents. In California, that is the Traynor competition, which has been testing the written and oral prowess and ability to “think on their feet” of the state’s top law school competitors for 50 years. The list of victors is impressive, including among others: University of Santa Clara (1970), UC Davis, UCLA, USC, McGeorge, UC Berkeley, Hastings, Loyola, and Empire College School of Law (2018).


Components of the Competition

The moot court competition consists of two elements – the written brief and the oral argument – and the “problem” is drawn from a real appellate case. This year’s case involved the question of whether police may obtain a warrantless blood sample from an unconscious suspect. All teams participate in the preliminary oral rounds on the first day of the competition. The top two teams advance to the finals on the second day.

The brief is submitted a few weeks in advance of the competition, after which the Empire team begins practicing their oral argument under the guidance of their coach, Professor Connie Burtnett. During the final weeks of practice, local attorneys and judges volunteer their time to serve as judges, adding their perspective and insight to help hone the team’s skills. Having the support of the local Bar and the ability to use the Superior Courtrooms housed within the Empire College campus add unique value to the Empire team’s training.


Empire’s Moot Court Success

The dedication and preparation of the 2018 Empire team resulted in them capturing first place in oral argument and bringing the trophy home to Santa Rosa. In addition, team members Michelle Novi and Stephanie Ransom were recognized for individual excellence in appellate advocacy for their oral arguments, Ms. Novi as the #1 oralist in the competition.


2018 Traynor Moot Court

Empire’s 2018 team landing with the “precious cargo.”


The 2019 team traveled to the competition with the winner’s trophy, hoping to bring it back to the North Bay. After an impressive performance on the first day advocating for the appellant against the team from UC Berkeley, team members Natalie Albanna, Richard Horrell, and Eric Smith advanced to the final round to face off once again with Boalt. The Empire team was great, better than on Day One (as was the Boalt team), and the judges deliberated for quite a while. We were told they went back and forth on who the winner should be. Team member Eric Smith was recognized as one of the top five oralists in the competition, and the Empire team wrote the best appellant’s brief. At the end of the day, the Empire team captured second place and gained invaluable experience in appellate advocacy.


2019 Traynor Moot Court

2019 Traynor Moot Court finalists.


Practical Hands-on Application of the Law

If you are looking for a law school that combines numerous opportunities for practical hands-on application and a track record of success, Empire College School of Law provides that experience.


What People Are Saying

Bruce Kinnison

“We have hired only Empire students for years. The results have been splendid for us and our clerks. The students made a tremendous contribution to my office.”

Bruce Kinnison, Sonoma County Chief Deputy Public Defender (Ret.), Professor of Criminal Law

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