Tyrra Walker and Kelli P. Rawlinson from the Class of 2019 triumphed this month in a contest that challenged students to argue the merits of a fictional civil lawsuit surrounding the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Let’s suppose you’re 38 years old and attempting to get pregnant with your newlywed husband when you ask your boss not to send you on assignment to a country dealing with the Zika virus.
No one disagrees that you’re the most qualified person to handle the work assignment that would take you to Panama. Plus, the only other person in the company able to go in your stead is recovering from complications of knee replacement surgery. He’s already received permission from the company owner to remain at home.
Your boss sends you anyway. You later test positive for exposure to Zika. Your doctors tell you not to get pregnant for two years. And now a lawsuit you filed against your employer has landed before a federal court of appeals deciding the question of disparate treatment under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Such was the fictional case argued by Elon Law students taking part in the school’s largest ever Intramural Moot Court Competition, which was won June 4, 2018, by the two-person team of Tyrra Walker L’19 and Kelli P. Rawlinson L’19.
The duo, who describe themselves as “law school besties,” prevailed as appellate counsel for the defendants in a closely contested final round against Emily Benson L’19 and Mackenzie Ceraso L’19 inside Elon Law’s Robert E. Long Courtroom.
Walker and Rawlinson earned praise from the final round panel comprised of the Hon. Robert N. Hunter Jr. of the North Carolina Court of Appeals; the Hon. L. Patrick Auld, a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina; and the Hon. James L. Gale, chief judge of the North Carolina Business Court.
The first-year students secured another distinction in their victory: Theirs was the first all-female, African-American team to win the intramural contest in the 11 years it has been held.
“This is more than a personal accomplishment but an accomplishment for all students at Elon Law who can identify with either of those groups,” Walker said. “The skills I was challenged to learn and perfect during this competition are so important to everyday practice as an attorney, no matter your specialty, and are just as important to a student, no matter your education level. This will certainly be one of the most memorable moments of law school.”
Rawlinson also noted personal and professional growth that arose from her involvement in the competition.
“Competing in this competition will influence my career because, while I am comfortable as a public speaker, one of the judges reminded us that we are speaking to be understood,” said Rawlinson, an aspiring criminal prosecutor. “That is an important take-away, because no matter how we feel as advocates, we have to relay messages in the most effective manner. After this competition, I intend to take every opportunity to get up in-front of judges to ensure I am ‘practice-ready’ once I graduate.”
The contest featured 58 total students on 29 teams. More than 50 attorneys and judges participated as judges in the early rounds of the competition.
Individual Awards of the Spring 2018 Competition
- Top Oral Advocate in the Final Round: Tyrra Walker
- Top Oralist in the Preliminary Rounds: Preston Edwards
- Karah Yager and Preston Edwards
- Logan DeHart and Richard Glenn
- Lauren Zickert and Jana Schaal
- Anastasia Tramontozzi and Nadia Ahmad
- Haylea Carter and Ryan Bristow
- Elizabeth Brewer and Alexa Litt
Members of Elon Law’s Moot Court Board helped coordinate the event, which was led by Richard Williams L’18, who oversaw the competition. Timaura Barfield L’18, Olivia Matte L’18, J.R. Bales L’18, Tia Hudgins L’18 and Adam Etzel L’18 served as various committee chairs.
“Our Moot Court Board did a phenomenal job organizing Elon Law’s largest-ever Intramural Moot Court Competition,” said Alan Woodlief, senior associate dean and director of the Moot Court Program. “We were honored to have Judges Hunter, Auld and Gale with us for the final round and were humbled by the number of alumni and local attorneys who judged throughout the competition.
“The support of the Bar and entire law school community is much appreciated and vital to the success of the competition.”
The Moot Court Board will host the ninth Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition from October 18-20, 2018. Members of the Board will also represent Elon Law in competitions around the country in 2018-19.