Mock Trial Team starts strong

Emily Ryan, Staff Writer

The University’s new Mock Trial Team competed in its first competition of the year. The team was established in the spring of 2014 and is student-coached under the leadership of President Priyanka Junankar ’17, Vice President Arriana Sajjad ’15, Secretary Caitlin Deardorff ’17, and Treasurer Zee Jacob ’16. Pre-Law Advisor Dianne McDonald also coaches the team.

New member Amanda Battle ’18 compared Mock Trial to a sport in the “structure of the competition and practices.”

“First we compete in the state tournament playing local teams, then advancing to regionals if we win, and then nationals if we have the honor to compete there as well. The spring is our season, so we will practice more often and for longer during those months,” Battle said.

The team must follow rules set by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), and every year the AMTA releases a case to be tried at competitions.

“Throughout the year all the competitions utilize the same case until nationals. This allows for teams to become extremely familiar with the case,” said Sam Pope ’16. 

“This year’s case is a civil case involving the accidental shooting of an 11-year-old girl by her best friend,” McDonald said. “This year’s case is more complex than most, so the team members need to understand the different fact scenarios and how they impact the legal theory of the case.”

Junankar and Sajjad registered for competitions over the summer. The team competed for the first time Oct. 25 and went up against the highly experienced and established Dickinson team. Pope, who participated as the plaintiff attorney in the trial, said that while the team lost, the competition was very close.

“[We did] extremely well given the difference in experience between the teams. It was fun to try and prove our case through the use of witness testimony and evidence, while trying to block the defense attorneys’ attempts to discredit our claims,” Pope said.

“Each competition is three hours long and works like a real court case. We practice both the plaintiff and defense side. There are three attorneys on each side of the case and three witnesses. When we arrive at a competition we find out on the spot whether we will be competing as the plaintiff or defense. We then run through the entire case against the other team, there are opening statements, direct and cross examinations from each side, and then closing statements,” Junankar said. 

Battle said that while the cases are not necessarily real and there are no clients, it is the real thing in all other aspects. With ambitions to become an attorney herself, Battle finds mock trial very realistic and beneficial.

“We are doing the things real attorneys do,” Battle said.

McDonald praised the team on their performance during the trial

“Following the competition the judges and other teams were very surprised to learn that this was our team’s first experience competing,” McDonald said.

The team is hoping to attend two more competitions this semester, with regional competitions set to begin at the beginning of the spring semester. Battle is optimistic about the team’s prospects, saying she believes that due to an incredible work ethic on the team, they have the chance to advance far into the tournament.

Up next is an invitational at Penn State, which will include competition against Ivy League teams.

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