4th Circuit, Law Schools

Law Student of the Day: Duke 3L Stephen Rawson

Duke is having a good month. The Blue Devils are heading to the NCAA Final Four this weekend. (Sorry, haters.) And one of the school’s law students, 3L Stephen Rawson, argued before the Fourth Circuit last week.

Like Duke in its Elite Eight game against Baylor, Rawson struggled early on. A few minutes into oral argument, he fainted.

He may have lost consciousness, but he didn’t lose his cool…

Rawson is a student in Duke’s Appellate Litigation Clinic. On March 23, while he was presenting a habeas corpus case, his own corpus was in serious need of a protein bar.

From Duke Law News:

The argument was complex — the clinic faced significant jurisdictional issues — so Rawson and his colleagues in the clinic were well prepared. But, apparently, not well fed.

A few minutes into his argument, Rawson, who suffers from mild hypoglycemia, passed out.

Apparently, the fainting was due not to caving under the pressure, but to blood sugar issues:

“I was past the initial nerves and into the flow of the argument, and I was feeling pretty good about things,” Rawson said. But then a familiar feeling came over him. “I had about 20 seconds’ notice before I passed out. I tried to take some deep breaths and will myself to stay on my feet — Judge [Robert] King was in the middle of a fairly long question — but of course willpower can’t overcome chemical imbalances in the blood.

“I’m told I was only out for a couple of seconds,” Rawson said. “And it was reported to me that I was still arguing while on my back — something along the lines of ‘with respect, Judge King …’ — and then I realized where I was.”

Some people can be very persuasive while lying on their backs.

When Rawson was able to again rise for the justices, he decided to sit:

Accustomed as he is to such occurrences, Rawson seemed to recover more quickly than others in the courtroom. He resumed argument immediately, accepting the judges’ invitation to complete his argument while seated at counsel’s table. Sitting during oral argument was a little awkward, Rawson admitted, but he thought it was the best course of action. “Well, it was a little embarrassing, but I didn’t want to risk anything further. Collapsing once was forgivable, but a second time would have been a bit much, I think.”

Rawson says that if he has the good fortune to someday argue in front of the Supreme Court, he’ll start the day with “a five-course meal.”

Clinic director Professor James Coleman told Duke Law News that Rawson still managed to impress despite going limp during oral.

Lesson No. 1: Eat a good breakfast [Duke Law News]
On being a Duke fan [True/Slant]

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