2016 Alumni Award Winners

Attorney of the Year

Whittier Law School Alumni Lawrence D. Rohlfing
Lawrence D. Rohlfing, Class of 1985

Lawrence D. Rohlfing graduated from Whittier College in 1982. He graduated from Whittier Law School in 1985 cum laude. Since admittance to the California State Bar, Mr. Rohlfing has sought, with distinction, to champion the rights of the disabled before the Social Security Administration, the United States District Courts, the United States Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Rohlfing is the owner and proprietor of a law firm which employs nine attorneys. Five of the nine attorneys are Whittier College and/or Whittier Law School alums. Mr. Rohlfing has proudly embraced and fostered diversity in his hiring practices in an effort to support the advancement of a diverse bar. In January 2015, the Southeast District Bar Association honored and selected Mr. Rohlfing as the Attorney of the Year.

Mr. Rohlfing has argued disability and other benefit entitlement claims in over a hundred claims before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He presented briefs in three cases to the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Rohlfing argued Black & Decker Disability Plan v. Nord to the United States Supreme Court in April 2003. Mr. Rohlfing is a sustaining member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). He currently serves as a past president of NOSSCR, serving on several committees, including the Amicus Committee. Mr. Rohlfing is the past chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Social Security Section. Mr. Rohlfing has presented numerous papers to bi-annual meetings of NOSSCR, the Los Angeles County Bar Association Social Security Section, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Southeast Bar Association of Los Angeles County, and the National Business Institute.

Mr. Rohlfing is the proud father of seven children whom he parented with his wife Maggie Rohlfing. He serves his community as an elder at La Habra Christian Church for most of the past 15 years, frequently as the chairman of the board. He served as the President of the Sonora High School Wrestling Boosters club for three years. He coached baseball, football, and softball on his children’s many teams for 20 years. He finally hung up his own cleats giving up adult softball in 2010.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Whittier Law School Alumni Matthew D. Easton
Matthew D. Easton, Class of 2009

Matthew D. Easton is an experienced litigator and partner at Easton & Easton, LLP, where he works alongside his father and two brothers in representing plaintiffs in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims. Matt has litigated cases against the State of California, numerous cities, numerous school districts, and countless large corporate entities and other defendants on behalf of seriously injured parties. In recent years, he has been the primary litigator in numerous multi-million dollar cases for his firm, including mediated settlements for $2,750,000, $1,240,000 and $1,300,000 — all of which were selected as Top Million-Dollar Settlements in California for 2013 and 2014. Matt has also received lifetime selection among the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum® – The Top Trial Lawyers in America® (an honor given to less than 1% of all attorneys in the United States).

Based on his successes over the past several years, Matt has been chosen each year since 2014 for the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 in California and Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars, honors given to less than 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California under the age of 40. Additionally, Matt was selected in 2015 for the American Academy of Trial Attorneys’ Premier 100 Trial Attorneys, the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys “10 Best” Personal Injury Attorneys for California, the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys’ Top 10 Under 40, Rue Ratings’ Best Attorneys of America, and for the highest AV Preeminent rating offered by Martindale-Hubbell, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious peer rating service for legal ability and ethics.

Based on his successful incorporation of advanced trial technologies into his own litigation and trial practice, Matt joined the faculty at Whittier Law School as an Adjunct Professor in 2015 to teach a course on Trial Technology. Additionally, in early 2016, Matt was the youngest litigator asked by NBC to screen test for the upcoming NBC primetime real-life trial series Law & Order: You The Jury — a new reality series created by Dick Wolf to feature high profile real-life litigators trying lawsuits live on primetime television for a voting audience. While very flattered by the interest in his talents, Matt decided to decline the request due to the time commitments of his law practice, teaching schedule, and family commitments.

Prior to practice, Matt received a full academic merit scholarship to Whittier Law School for all 3 years. While at Whittier, he was chosen as the “Best Oral Advocate” of the 3rd Annual Susan E. McGuigan Oral Advocacy Competition, served as Chief Justice of the Moot Court Honors Board, served on Law Review, published through Law Review, and competed in numerous external Moot Court and Trial Advocacy competitions on behalf of Whittier Law School. In 2009, Matt received his Juris Doctor magna cum laude from Whittier Law School, graduating in the top 10% of his class, and he was admitted to the California Bar that same year.

Apart from the millions in verdict and settlement funds Matt has acquired for his deserving clients through the hundreds of cases he has handled in recent years, he has also been able to affect lasting change in how corporations, cities, and the state of California conduct themselves in order to prevent similar future injuries. For example, as part of his handling of a roadway defect bicycle case against the state of California in 2013, the state of California later coordinated with the cities of Newport Beach and Irvine to correct a dangerous condition at the location of the incident. When the case began, the State vehemently contended that it was not negligent and there was no defect. But after a year of litigation, Matt deposed the State’s experts and illustrated their untenable position, causing the State to seek a mediation where the matter ultimately settled. Even more telling, however, the State later coordinated very complex efforts with the two neighboring cities in order to rectify the condition that Matt contended was dangerous and caused his client’s accident. Matt counts these types of lasting changes that will certainly prevent future tragedies among his greatest accomplishments.

While Matt grew up in Orange County and has a strong love for the community here, he also spent two years abroad in Mexico City on a mission for his church where he became fluent in Spanish. He is an Eagle Scout and continues to enjoy many outdoor activities, including mountain biking, snow skiing, rock climbing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and golfing. Matt is very happily married with two wonderful sons.

Judicial Officer of the Year

Whittier Law School Alumni Judge Karen Ackerson Gauff
Judge Karen Ackerson Gauff, Class of 1991

Judge Gauff is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and book author.

Judge Gauff is the youngest of seven children, four boys and three girls. Judge Gauff’s parents divorced when she was five years old. Thereafter, Judge Gauff and her two sisters were primarily reared by her mother. While in the care of her mother who battled mental illness, Judge Gauff was fortunate to have survived neglect and sexual perversion while spending most of her childhood learning how to steal, survive and sue others until she received a miracle in her life – the gift of foster care.

Judge Gauff is a graduate of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, the University of California at San Diego, and Whittier College School of Law. Judge Gauff is also a veteran of the United States Air Force where she served as a paralegal for the Judge Advocate General’s Office.

Upon becoming an attorney in 1991, Judge Gauff practiced as a criminal defense attorney and civil rights prosecutor before recruitment by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) as a Deputy Attorney General in 2000. While at DOJ, Judge Gauff was assigned to the Health, Education and Welfare Section for ten years before her appointment as a Judge in 2010 by former Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Simultaneously, in service to her community, Judge Gauff has served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity, Los Angeles, Inc. and mentored over one hundred college, law students and attorneys. She has also appeared before the United States Supreme Court to personally sponsor the admission of over thirty attorneys and founded the Legal Eagles Program, a free legal clinic at her church. Presently, Judge Gauff volunteers to judge Compton High School’s Teen Court Program and coordinates its six week Courthouse Exchange Program.

Judge Gauff is assigned to the Compton Courthouse. For nearly six years, Judge Gauff presided over misdemeanor and drug court treatment matters. In January 2016, Judge Gauff was selected to preside over a Community Collaborative Court for treatment to Veterans, the mentally ill, chronic homeless, and the sexually exploited.

On April 1, 2015, Judge Gauff published her first book entitled, “Courting with Chance (Reconciling Memoirs),” which is a revealing and transparent view of her life story with a little help from her mother. Judge Gauff now travels the nation to encourage and empower men, women, boys and girls to start the difficult conversations to shed their shame.

Finally, Judge Gauff is married to Will and is the proud mother of two sons: Shawn and Brandon (R.I.P.).

Professor of the Year

Whittier Law School Professor Betsy Rosenblatt
Betsy Rosenblatt, Associate Professor of Law; Director, Center for Intellectual Property Law

Professor Rosenblatt joined the Whittier Law School faculty in 2009. At Whittier, she has taught courses in Patent Law, Trademark Law, Video Game Law, Advanced Patent Law, Recent Issues in Intellectual Property Law, and Civil Procedure. She is also one of the co-creators and co-professors of the school’s 1L Legal Mind course. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Professor Rosenblatt practiced intellectual property litigation at the firm of Irell & Manella in Los Angeles, where her clients involved major entertainment and high-tech companies, and she taught as an Adjunct Professor of Trademark Law at USC Gould School of Law.

Following practice, she was a Fellow in Intellectual Property Law at UCLA School of Law. Her scholarly work, which focuses on intellectual property law and theory, entertainment law, and gender/sexuality, has been published by the Florida Law Review, the DePaul Law Review, the Florida State Law Review, the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, and the University of Ottawa Press, among others. She is a frequent speaker not only at academic conferences but also at more popular venues such as San Diego Comic Con and the South by Southwest festival. She is the Chair of the Legal Committee of the Organization for Transformative Works (http://www.transformativeworks.org) and an Advisory Chair for Outreach and Education of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (http://www.cbldf.org).