First year students Hope Blain and Elisabeth Carter faced-off before a packed house in Fowler School of Law’s appellate courtroom last week during the final argument in the 2017 Rutan & Tucker Golden Gavel Competition.

The final argument served as an opportunity for the winning advocates to display their skills before a panel of VIP judges as well as family, fellow students, law school administrators, and visiting attorneys.

judgesThe final argument was the culmination of Fowler Law’s annual competition in which all first-year students present a mock appellate oral argument based on legal briefs written in their required Legal Research and Writing (LRW) class. Four students made it to the final round, Blain and Elyssa Hines for the plaintiff and Carter and Lance Cotton for the defendant. Blain and Carter learned they had won the competition one day earlier, surviving multiple elimination rounds in the weeklong event that began with 180 students. Each will receive the coveted Golden Gavel award and a $500 scholarship.

This year’s VIP judges were the Honorable Diane S. Sykes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; the Honorable David A. Thompson from the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three; and John B. Hurlbut, Jr., a partner at Rutan & Tucker, LLP.

studentsJudge Sykes joined the federal bench in 2004 after being appointed by former president George W. Bush. Last year, she was named as a potential United States Supreme Court nominee by then presidential candidate Donald Trump. Justice Thompson has served on the Court of Appeal since 2012. Prior to that, he was an Orange County Superior Court judge for 15 years. Both Justice Thompson and John Hurlbut have previously judged the final round of the Golden Gavel competition and are frequent visitors to the law school.

The annual competition is sponsored by Rutan & Tucker, LLP, a leading Orange County law firm with a strong history of investment in the mission of Chapman University and the Fowler School of Law, including the annual Golden Gavel and Golden Quill first-year advocacy and writing competitions.