By Chris Lawson and Sara Gold, Editors-in-Chief
Twenty-four California Western students represented the school this trimester at trial, appellate, and negotiation competitions throughout Southern California, aided by more than 10 Cal Western alumni as coaches.
San Diego Association of Business Trial Lawyers Competition
California Western ended the fall trimester strong, placing first in the Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL) mock trial competition and earning a $5,000 prize. Briana Wilford, Payton Randle, Christian Escamilla, and Amanda Shayota bested teams from the University of San Diego (USD) and Thomas Jefferson in the annual ABTL event, a competition between San Diego’s three law schools. Continuing Cal Western’s winning streak, this was the school’s third ABTL win in the past four years.
After competing Nov. 10-11 at California Western, the Cal Western and USD teams advanced to the final round Nov. 13 at the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego, adjudicated by the Hon. Judge Battaglia. The Cal Western students had already faced USD earlier that weekend, allowing them to wisely strategize heading into the final round. Whether it was adjustments made or pure determination, Cal Western was prepared for anything and emerged victorious.
During their 10 weeks of preparation leading up to the competition, the students attended practices with their coaches three nights a week, in addition to weekend scrimmages. The team was coached by Cal Western alumni Clayton Carr (’13), Corey Garrard (’14), and Taylor Williams (’17). All that hard work paid off as Cal Western was named “Best in San Diego” for Business Trial Advocacy.
“I am so thankful for the opportunity to compete with such amazing teammates and coaches,” Wilford said. “Joining California Western’s trial team has provided me with countless opportunities. I highly recommend that anyone considering trying out for the team compete in one of the spring competitions.”
Alternative Dispute Resolution competitions
Three Cal Western teams competed Nov. 18 at the ABA Regional Negotiations Competition at Southwestern Law School. The pairs were Robert Theiring/Jason Burkhead, Justin Kashou/Claudette Villicana, and Jacquelyne Crockett/Jessica Colburn.
Two Cal Western teams, Theiring/Crockett and Kashou/Villicana, went to Thomas Jefferson School of Law to compete in the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition on Sept. 23.
“Competing in both of these competitions is the epitome of why I came to law school,” said Theiring. “These competitions were an amazing experience to not only test my skills against my future colleagues, but to build a sense of camaraderie with my team and help each other develop as future attorneys.”
USD Criminal Procedure Appellate Competition
Cal Western duo John Gordon and Sara Gold advanced into the top 16 teams of the 40 nationwide teams who competed in the University of San Diego (USD) criminal procedure appellate competition, held Nov. 10-12 at USD.
The competition preparation began in September, when the students began the monthlong process of writing an appellate brief discussing two Fourth Amendment issues: border agents’ search of a laptop near the Mexico border, and police’s use of a drone and movement-sensing radar on a private residence.
After submitting the brief, the students worked closely with alumni coach Grant Porter (’15) and assistant coach Mason Smith (’17) to prepare oral arguments representing both the petitioner (U.S. government) and respondent (the convicted criminal). Over the course of two days, Gordon and Gold participated in five total oral arguments between the preliminary round and Round of 16.
Tournament of Champions (Los Angeles)
Cal Western was represented on the national stage, placing 5th overall in the National Board of Trial Advocacy’s Tournament of Champions (TOC) held Nov. 1-4 in Los Angeles. James Carraway, Anthony Esquibel, Danica Wahl, and Melissa Mueller beat out 11 teams in this 16-team invite-only competition involving top law schools such as Harvard and Georgetown. In addition to the team’s 5th place win overall, Esquibel was named runner-up for Best Individual Advocate.
“California Western’s trial team program has taught me how to conquer my fears and to fight for what I believe in,” said Wahl. “It has provided me with job opportunities, a new-found passion for litigation, and friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Alumni Solomon Chang (’08) and Thomas Bahr (’09), with the aid of assistant coach Anthony Vargas (’17), coached the students.
The Tournament of Champions is considered one of the premier law school trial competitions in the country, and each school is invited based on a three-year performance record. Hosted by Loyola Law School, TOC held its preliminary rounds at the new federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. The semi-final and final rounds took place at the Loyola Law School campus.
The competition’s fact pattern, adapted from an actual case, was based on the prosecution of a sheriff who allegedly covered up mistreatment of inmates at the jail he oversaw. The FBI was brought in to investigate supplying a prisoner with a cell phone, which was against the rules. Complicating the case was an issue as to whether the sheriff suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Actual individuals who worked on this case were evaluators for the competition.
San Diego Defense Lawyers Mock Trial Competition
Two teams of Cal Western students gave it their all at the annual San Diego Defense Lawyers (SDDL) mock trial competition. Daniel Korchnoy, Steffany Saravia, Taylor Castro, and Micha Mesure were coached by Cal Western alumni Lindsey Willard (’13) and Katie Nagler (’14), with the help of assistant coach Monty Randhawa (’16). Ashley Sanchez, Carl Boudro, Colby Ryan, and Layla Toma were coached by alumni Taylor Gaines (’12) and Chris Lee (’16), with the help of assistant coach Derek Reid (’17).
“Competing at SDDL was my greatest professional challenge and my most rewarding professional experience,” said Korchnoy. “Few things will beat the thrill of advocating in the middle of that courtroom.”
Held Oct. 19-21, the competition was based around a negligence fact pattern, with two students on each team acting as the prosecution and defense lawyers and two students acting as witnesses. The preliminary rounds took place at the San Diego County Superior Court, with the semi-final and final rounds held at USD.