Brief Deadline

march 12, 2021


april 17 & 18, 2021

The oral argument will take place entirely on the Zoom platform with the generous assistance and support of our host school, the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, on April 17 and 18, 2021. As in the past, each participating law school campus may send a team of up to three students.


I.          Organization of the Competition


The Roger J. Traynor California Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition is an annual appellate moot court competition. The competition takes place at a host law school designated on a rotating basis. The competition was developed and conducted for nearly 30 years by the California Young Lawyers Association of the State Bar of California. Beginning in 1999, under an arrangement with the State Bar of California, the competition was sponsored and administered by the Witkin Legal Institute. Until 2018, the competition was sponsored by the Witkin Legal Institute and The Rutter Group. Since 2019, the competition has been administered by Miriam Billington, Esq. The Traynor 2021 is possible because of generous support from the Gisnet Mandell Moot Court Trust.

            You may contact the administrator, Miriam Billington, at:

            1158 26th St. #653, Santa Monica CA 90403


   Tel.  (310) 386-1295


The competition is open to all law schools in the State of California. The administrator reserves the right to permit out-of-state schools to participate as well, space permitting. The administrator is responsible for preparing and distributing the record, scheduling the rounds, scheduling the submission of briefs, and pairing the opponents. The host school is responsible for providing the facilities for the competition. Judges are members of the appellate bench and bar and are invited by the host school and soponsors. Brief graders are experienced appellate practitioners.


The competition consists of three rounds. All teams participate in the first two rounds of oral argument. The top two teams as described in Part VIII of these rules advance to the final round.


II.         Teams


Each law school may enter one team in the competition, composed of two or three students who are currently enrolled and in good standing. Substitution in the membership of a team after the submission of briefs is prohibited except on written approval of the administrator.


III.        Limitations on Faculty and Other Participation


The purpose of the competition is to develop appellate advocacy skills and experience through the students’ own analysis and work. The brief must be entirely written and edited exclusively by the team members. Faculty members or others may not write or edit any part of the brief. Teams may receive only the following limited assistance: (i) general discussions of the issues between team members and others; (ii) evaluation and general critiques of drafts of the brief; and (iii) practice oral arguments followed by evaluations and critiques.


IV.        Tape Recording and Attendance at Rounds


A team may record its own oral argument if desired. No team may record or attend the oral argument of another team until the attending team has been eliminated from further argument. No person may attend an oral argument for the purpose of advising a team about the substance of another team’s argument or the questions asked by the judges.


V.         The Record

The record consists of all those pleadings, motions, affidavits, declarations, findings, transcripts of testimony, opinions, or other documents necessary to present a case for appellate review. The administrator will provide the record. The record is drawn from real cases. Any attempt by any person, directly or indirectly, to contact the attorneys or the parties, to examine the case files (including any decisions and opinions) or briefs in the real cases on which the problem is based is prohibited and will result in disqualification of the entire team. 


VI.        Briefs


            A.         General Requirements


Each team must submit a written brief arguing one side of the case. The side of the case to be argued in the written brief will be assigned to the school by the administrator at the time of the posting of the record. However, teams are required to argue both sides of the case at oral argument. Briefs may not be revised or otherwise modified after they are filed.


            B.         Length and Form of Briefs


In the past, teams have submitted printed paper briefs. In 2021, we are going totally digital. On or before the filing date, each team must submit an electronic brief. The electronic brief must be a PDF-file and be formatted to fit an 8 ½" x 11" paper size. Briefs shall use Century family (e.g., Century, Century Schoolbook, etc.) 13-point type with at least one-inch margins on all sides. Except for the table of contents, questions presented, table of authorities, footnotes, block quotations, argument headings, the entire content of the brief must be double-spaced.


Briefs may not exceed 8400 words, excluding topical index and table of authorities. The brief must include a certificate stating the number of words. The certificate may rely on the computer program used to prepare the brief. Except as provided otherwise in these rules, the content, form, and reproduction of briefs must be in compliance with Rules 8.40 and 8.204 of the California Rules of Court. Briefs and citations must follow the California Style Manual.

No information identifying the team or its law school, other than its team number, may be included on the cover, anywhere inside the brief, or in the brief’s properties or metadata. (Do not sign the brief or the word count certificate; just use your team number.)

            C.         Certification of Familiarity with Competition Rules

Team members must certify that they have read and are familiar with the competition rules and appendices. In a separate PDF document, teams must submit the following statement, signed by all student participants and the faculty advisor:  “We have read and followed the competition rules and appendices.”


            D.        Filing of Briefs; Filing Date         


Briefs must be submitted via e-mail by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific time) on Friday, March 12, 2021. The brief file name must start with the word “team” followed by the team number. All letters must be lower case, and there should be no space between the word “team” and the team number (e.g., team1).


VII.       Oral Argument


            A.         Time and Place


The administrator will designate the time and place within the host school at which the competition will be held. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 orals will take place on the Zoom platform.


            B.         Pairing of Teams for Argument

The administrator will pair teams for rounds one and two. In the event that an odd number of teams enters the competition, a team selected by the administrator will argue the appellant’s case without an opponent. Teams are required to argue both sides of the case, one side at round one and the other side at round two of oral argument.


            C.         Participants in the Argument

In any round only two members of a team may participate in the argument. When a team consists of three members, the decision as to which two members of the team will argue in any round rests with the team. Substitutions may be made between rounds only.


            D.        Time Allowed for Argument

Oral argument in each round is limited to a total of thirty minutes per team. In each argument, no team member may argue longer than fifteen minutes. Appellants argue first and may reserve a maximum of five minutes for rebuttal after the close of respondent’s case. Only one advocate may reserve rebuttal time and the advocate who reserves rebuttal time must be the one to use it. One advocate may not share his or her time with the other. If a judge has not finished posing a question to an advocate, the judge may in his or her discretion finish the question and allow the advocate to respond briefly to the question after it has been fully posed.

              E.      Further Rules

Each advocate is expected to compete in full courtroom attire. Advocates must ensure that no distractions arise during the round, including making sure all other electronic devices in their possession are muted. The two advocates participating in a round may choose to be physically in the same location, using the same computer.  The two advocates participating in a round may choose to be in different locations, using separate computers. No others, including advisors or non-arguing team members, may be physically in the same room with advocates during the round.


Advocates arguing together during a round but not physically in the same room may communicate by electronic private devices. Advocates otherwise may not communicate with advisors, the non-arguing team member, or anyone else other than judges and the Clerk of Court during a round. During the argument, the group “chat” function in Zoom will be utilized by the Clerk of Court only, to notify advocates of remaining time. In addition to posting time updates on “chat,” the Clerk of Court will provide a visual notice of time either by timecards or a running clock displayed on screen.


Advocates will connect to the round by the internet. Each advocate must be prepared to connect by the call-in function as a backup if an internet service occurs disruption. An advocate must not be connected by more than one device at a time. An advocate who experiences a distracting pause while arguing may request that the Chief Justice pause the round so the technical problem can be addressed. The Chief Justice shall, in consultation with the Clerk of Court, may pause the round and have the advocate call in, or allow the round to continue.


For each argument, advocates will be provided a cell number to call to contact the Clerk of Court if disconnection occurs. If an advocate arguing is disconnected, time will be paused. If the advocate cannot reconnect to the internet within two minutes, the advocate must connect by phone and finish the argument by audio only. Time will resume when the advocate reconnects and resumes the argument. If an advocate not arguing is disconnected, the argument will proceed, and the advocate must reconnect as soon as possible.


Virtual backgrounds may not be used during the argument. Advocates should ensure that the room in which they are arguing looks professional and includes nothing that could identify the competitor’s school. Advocates shall keep their name on the Zoom window and introduce themselves to the Court by their name but may make no reference to their school.


Advisors and non-arguing team members may join the Zoom session for the arguments but must keep their cameras off and their microphones on mute. Advisors and non-arguing team members may not communicate with competing advocates during the arguments.


Advocates must check email for the Zoom link and join the session no later than 30 minutes before the round’s start time so the Clerk of Court can confirm that everyone has proper connectivity. Once all advocates and judges have joined the session and are properly connected, at the Chief Justice’s discretion, the round may start if everyone is ready to proceed.


VIII.      Scoring


            A.         General Rules

            Briefs and oral arguments are scored on the basis of quality of presentation and arguments, not on the merits of the case.


            B.         Scoring of Briefs

Briefs are judged and graded by appellate experts who are familiar with the case. The final brief score is the combined average of the scores of the graders. Brief scores are not announced prior to the oral arguments. Appendix I sets forth grading guidelines for briefs.


            C.         Scoring of Oral Arguments

Oral arguments are scored on the basis of each team’s objective performance, rather than as a contest between the teams arguing against each other. All teams will argue in rounds one and two.


Oral arguments are judged and graded by the judges before whom each argument is presented. There may be two or three judges per argument, except that the final round will have three judges. Appendix II sets forth guidelines for judging oral arguments.


Arguments are graded and judged on a scale of 100. Each team member receives a score for his or her argument from each judge. The team score from that judge is the sum of the two individual member’s scores, divided by two. To calculate the team’s final score, the score of each judge is added together for a total numerical score, then divided by the number of judges.


            D.        Advancement to Final Round

Team scores for both rounds of oral argument are combined for purposes of advancement to the final round. Success at the competition depends on both brief writing and oral advocacy skills. Oral advocacy alone is not sufficient to advance to the final round. To advance to the final round, a team must (1) have a brief score in the top 75%, and (2) have the highest or next highest combined oral argument score. The winner of the final round is based solely on the oral argument score in that round.


IX.        Infractions


Any attempt by any person, directly or indirectly, to contact the attorneys or the parties, to examine the case file or briefs (including any decisions and opinions), or to locate the case on which the problem is based is prohibited and will result in disqualification of the entire team.


All claims of infractions, including violations of these rules, must be made in writing to the administrator. In the discretion of the administrator, an appropriate penalty may be assessed against a team for an infraction or violation of these rules. The punishment will be based on the nature of the infraction.


X.         Other Rules


In addition to these rules, the administrator may make any other rules deemed advisable for the conduct of the competition, provided that they are not inconsistent with the intent of these rules. Questions concerning interpretation of these rules must be directed in writing to the administrator.


XI.        Important Information for Faculty and Students


Appendix III includes important information about the structure and philosophy of the competition.

XII.       Awards


The following awards are made at the close of the competition:


            A.         Oral Argument: The Roger J. Traynor Award

  • First Place to the team presenting the best oral argument in the final round.

  • Second Place to the other team in the final round.


            B.         Brief Writing: Best Brief

  • First Place to the team receiving the highest score 

  • Second Place to the team receiving the second highest score 


            C.         Excellence in Appellate Advocacy: The Gisnet Mandell Award

  • First Place to the team with the highest combined total points as follows: 50% brief; 50% combined oral argument score in rounds one and two.

  • Second Place to the team with the next highest combined total points as follows: 50% brief; 50% combined oral argument score in rounds one and two.

  • This award is limited to teams who rank in the top 75% on both the brief score and the oral argument score.


             D.         Individual Oral Argument: Best Oralist and individual oralists attaining the top 5 scores

Rules Appendix I

Grading Guidelines for Briefs


Briefs are scored on the basis of quality of presentation and arguments, not on the merits of the case. The maximum possible score is 100 points.

I.  Introduction and Statement of the Case:   0-20 points


  • Does the brief frame the issues concisely and intelligibly?

  • Does it summarize the argument persuasively?

  • Is it well written?

  • Does it create interest?

  • Does it lead the reader to want to keep reading?

  • Does it present a credible position?

  • Does it make the reader want to rule in favor of this side?

II.  Statement of Facts:  0-30 points


  • Does the brief make good use of facts?

  • Does it defuse bad facts?

  • Does it faithfully cite to the record?

  • Is it well organized?

  • Does it tell a compelling story?

  • Does it have a theme?

  • Is it persuasive in its own right?

  • Does it include only relevant material?

  • Does it foreshadow the legal arguments?

  • Is there too much editorializing?


III.  Legal Argument:    0-40 points


  •   Does the brief make good use of the relevant decisions?

  • Does it work with the facts of the decisions or just state abstract principles?

  • Does it make appropriate references to pages in the decisions?

  • Does it make reasoned argument or bald, unsupported conclusions?

  • Does it weave the facts of the case into the argument?

  • Is the organization logical?

  • Do the headings advance the argument?

  • Is it persuasive?

  • Is it accurate?

  • Does it account for the weaknesses in the case?

  • How does it handle unfavorable authorities?


IV.  Style and Professionalism:     0-10 points


  • Does the brief use proper grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation?

  • Does it set the right tone?

  • Is the overall presentation clear?

  • Is it respectful?

  • Does it correctly cite the decisions and the record?

  • Is it neat?

  • Is it technically precise?

  • Does it comply with the Competition rules?

Rules Appendix II

Grading Guidelines for Oral Argument


Oral argument is scored on the basis of the objective quality of the substantive arguments relative to the advocate’s position and on the effectiveness of presentation, not on the merits of the outcome of the case. The maximum possible score is 100 points.


I.  Opening: up to 10 points


  • Does the advocate go directly to the heart of the appeal or waste time reciting unnecessary matters?

  • Does the advocate quickly summarize the party’s basic position?

  • Does the tone and manner of presentation immediately give the court confidence that the advocate has a command over the case?

  • Is there an ease of presentation that engages the court and makes the justices eager to enter into a dialogue with the advocate?

  • Does the opening make the court believe that the advocate will be candid and address the difficulties of the problem, rather than overzealous in support of a position?

  • Does the advocate read from a prepared statement, use notes wisely, or appear to speak spontaneously, reflecting command of the situation?

  • Does the respondent’s opening highlight weaknesses in the appellant’s presentation or start from a prepared script as if the appellant had not argued?


II.  Presentation of the Substantive Arguments: up to 40 points


  • Does the argument have a theme?

  • Does the advocate make reasoned arguments or state conclusions without analysis?

  • Does the advocate focus on the important questions raised by the case or become mired in unnecessary detail?

  • Is the argument well organized?

  • Does the advocate understand the legal issues?

  • Does the advocate discuss the facts in the decisions in an appropriate manner or pay too much attention to immaterial details?

  • Is the advocate familiar with the record?

  • Does the advocate understand what parts of the record are most helpful to his or her client’s position?

  • How well does the advocate handle the unfavorable parts of the record?

  • Does the advocate know how to move on to a different subject?

  • Does the advocate make good use of notes?

  • Does the argument leave the court wishing for more time to explore issues further with an engaging advocate, or leave the court grateful that the argument is over?

III. Responding to Questions from the Court on the Substantive Arguments: up to 35 points


  • Is the advocate prepared for questions or surprised and unable to answer?

  • Does the advocate respond directly and immediately to each question?

  • Does the advocate make concessions when necessary and then explain why the concession is not fatal?

  • Does the advocate exhibit flexibility and use the questions to advance his or her client’s position?

  • Does the advocate get rattled by questions or utilize them as occasions for entering dialogue?

  • Does the advocate know when to stop?

  • How well does the advocate move back to what he or she wants to say?

  • What does the advocate do if he or she does not understand the question?


IV.  Demeanor and Closing/Rebuttal: up to 15 points


  • Is the advocate’s presentation smooth and confident, or hesitant and fumbling?

  • Does the advocate appear poised and ready to enter dialogue or nervous, unprepared, and unwilling to enter dialogue?

  • Do the advocate’s voice and manner of presentation engage the listener?

  • Does the advocate vary his or her inflection and tone appropriately or is the presentation dull and uninspiring?

  • Is the advocate overly rhetorical or sarcastic?

  • What does the advocate’s body language indicate?

  • Does the advocate make, and keep, eye contact with the justices as appropriate?

  • Is the advocate respectful of the court?

  • Is the advocate dressed appropriately?

  • Does the advocate make good use of what transpired during the argument to create an effective closing or rely on a prepared statement?

  • Does the argument end on a good note or just fade away?

  • Does the appellant use rebuttal effectively by capitalizing on weaknesses in the respondent’s presentation and addressing any helpful questions raised by the court?

Rules Appendix III

Important Information for Faculty and Students


The Problem

The problem is drawn from a real case in the California Court of Appeal. We have selected a case from that court because it is the appellate court in which the vast majority of California lawyers appear most frequently. Therefore, it is of greatest practical value to the students to brief and argue a case from that court. 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 case file or briefs in the case on which the problem is based is prohibited and will result in disqualification of the entire team.


Oral Argument

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. All participants are invited to attend the final round.


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: (a) to recognize the central role that briefs play in appellate advocacy, by using the brief score as a significant component of advancement to the final round; (b) to ensure that the best teams advance, by using a qualifying system rather than an elimination system; and (c) 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 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. A high-quality illustrative brief on each side may be distributed to the judges before oral argument and provided to the schools after the competition.

Number of Student Participants

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.