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Registration Deadline DECEMBER 15, 2023

Record Posted JANUARY 15, 2024

Brief Deadline MARCH 8, 2024

Oral Arguments APRIL 13 & 14, 2024

Location ZOOM



Important Information for Faculty and Students


The Roger J. Traynor California Appellate Moot Court Competition was developed and conducted for nearly 30 years by the California Young Lawyers Association of the State Bar of California. The Witkin Legal Institute and The Rutter Group carried on this proud tradition through the 2018 competition. Administrator Miriam Billington took the reins in 2019 and continues this year, the Traynor's 55th, with generous support from the Gisnet Mandell Moot Court Trust.  

The Problem


The problem is drawn from a real case in the California courts. The issues in the actual case are closely contested, and neither side is favored for purposes of the problem. Any attempt by any person, directly or indirectly, to contact the attorneys or the parties, or to examine the real-life case file or briefs, including decisions and opinions in the case on which the problem is based is prohibited and will result in disqualification of the entire team.



The competition has been designed to reflect, to the extent possible, the nature of appellate practice in the contemporary environment students will face when they graduate from law school. One of the most fundamental changes in appellate practice in recent decades is the increased importance of briefs. Before oral argument, almost every California Court of Appeal has a tentative opinion, and the justices have held one or more conferences about the case. Accordingly, the importance of the written brief cannot be overstated; the winning teams must have written a high quality brief.


Briefs will be graded by appellate specialists using the grading guidelines that are part of the rules of the competition. Briefs are scored on the basis of quality of presentation and analysis, not on the merits of the case. The scoring procedure is explained in the rules of the competition.


Oral Arguments


Oral arguments will be scored on the basis of quality of presentation, not on the merits of the case. The competition judges will be limited to justices and research attorneys of the Court of Appeal and experienced appellate attorneys. 


The scoring procedure is explained in the rules of the competition. While each team will be assigned to brief either the appellant's side or the respondent's side of the case, all teams must also be prepared to argue the other side of the case without reliance on a brief from the opposing party.


Generally, the case involves two issues. Each team is expected to argue both issues in each round of oral argument. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Thus, for example, an appellant may not concede an issue.


The oral argument portion of the competition consists of three rounds of argument. All teams participate in round one on Saturday morning and round two on Saturday afternoon. Two teams advance to the final round on Sunday morning.


Oral advocacy alone is not sufficient to advance to the final round. To advance to the final round, a team must have (1) a brief score in the top 75%, and (2) the highest or next highest combined oral argument score. The competition has been structured in this way for three primary reasons: (1) to recognize the significant role that briefs play in appellate advocacy, by using the brief score as a component of advancement to the final round; (2) to ensure that the best teams advance, by using a qualifying system rather than an elimination system; (3) to enable the competition to limit the judges to persons who are highly skilled and experienced in appellate practice.


Sharing of Briefs Prohibited

The competition uses a qualifying system rather than an elimination system, and the competitors will argue both sides of the case. In order to assure that each oral argument is solely the work of the student presenting it, briefs must not be shared with any other school. 


Number of Student Participants


Each school may register one team. Each team may include two or three students. Because there are only two rounds of oral argument before the final round, and because only two students argue for the same side during a round of argument, it is not possible for all students on teams with three students to argue twice.


Limitations on Faculty Participation


The purpose of the competition is to develop appellate advocacy skills and experience through the students' own analysis and work. Teams may only receive limited assistance from others in writing the brief or preparing oral argument.  This means that the brief should be entirely student written and edited. Faculty members and others may not write or edit any part of the brief. General discussions of the issues between team members and others, evaluation and general critiques of the brief, and practice arguments between students in the same school are allowed.



The Roger J. Traynor Award for oral argument will be based on the oral argument in the final round. The award for Best Brief is based solely on the written brief. The Gisnet Mandell Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy will be based 50% on the brief and 50% on the oral argument scores in rounds one and two, but is limited to teams who rank in the top 75% on both the brief and the oral argument scores.


Oral Argument Schedule (subject to change)


Generally, the oral argument portion of the competition will use the following schedule:




9:30 – 10:00                Log-on and Check-in


10:00 – 11:30                Morning Round and Discussion with Judges


11:30 – 12:45                 Lunch

12:45 – 1:00                  Log-on and Check-in


1:00 – 2:30                   Afternoon Round and Discussion with Judges


5:00                              Results Announced




10:00                           Final Round followed by Awards Ceremony


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