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UMD Mock Trial - January 2019

mock_trial_team
January 7, 2019

“May it please the court, members of the jury, opposing counsel.” 

“May it please the court, members of the jury, opposing counsel.” These are the words that repeat in my head time and time again as I begin any paper, presentation, or speech after the four years I have participated in the UMD Mock Trial Program.

These words come from the way each and every mock trial participant begins their opening or closing arguments during a trial. These arguments are just one example of the many dashes of courtroom realism that mock trial allows students to practice. While participating in courtroom activities is exciting and rewarding for any pre-law student, the skills that come with performing in this setting benefit any student with virtually any career interest. The UMD Mock Trial program offers participating students communication skills, critical thinking, and confidence. So, what does it look like to be a part of the UMD Mock Trial team?

As the President of the team, it is my job to ensure that every student interested in participating on the mock trial team knows what a huge time commitment it really is. I often compare it to playing a college-level sport. Instead of putting in physical practice and work, you will be putting in intellectual practice and work. Let’s give that brain muscle some exercise!

We receive a case each year from the American Mock Trial Association that tends to be over 150 pages long. The case is either civil or criminal (it alternates each year) and is filled with all sorts of “mock” legal documents from a jurisdiction called Midlands. These documents include pre-trial orders, summary judgments, depositions, affidavits, and exhibits. The case is paired with case law and the rules of evidence which can be used to argue the case/make objections during trial.

Our team of 10 students maximum (an AMTA sanctioned rule) then breaks this case down into theories to argue for prosecution/plaintiff and defense. Since in rounds of competition, our team will be variously on the prosecution/plaintiff or defense side, we allocate students to represent both sides of the case (with three attorneys on each side as well as three witnesses). Since there are 12 roles to play with only 10 people to play them, we usually have our student witnesses double-up and perform on both sides of the case, as the circumstances require.

We practice, practice, practice, and five times a season (fall & spring semester) we either drive down to various campuses in Minneapolis/St. Paul or across the bridge to UWS to compete in four rounds of weekend tournament competition against other schools from throughout the Midwest. We perform in “mock trials” presided over by two judges (usually coaches from other teams), who run the courtroom just like a real judge. One of our sides (prosecution/plaintiff or defense) competes against another school’s side on opposition. The judges are there to make rulings on objections, keep the courtroom running smoothly, and to judge us individually on a scale of 1-10 on our performance, skills and knowledge as attorneys and witnesses. At the end of the round, the scores are added up, and the team with the most points wins that round. There is no jury to deliberate the innocence or guilt of the defendant, unfortunately.

While the team has been successful in competitions this season, we are especially proud of our accomplishments at the UWS tournament in December. We placed 2nd throughout the whole tournament, which meant we won every ballot except for one! My teammate Claire Schmitz and I won “Top Attorney” awards and Claire won a “Top Witness” award as well. Other team members won top-4 rankings as attorneys and witnesses throughout the tournament. top attorney winners

If your student is interested in getting involved, check-out our Bulldog Link or email me directly (baumg177@d.umn.edu) to find out more information about open spots on our team or how you can get involved!

So, there you have it: UMD Mock Trial, a great success!

Audrey Baumgartner
UMD Student
College of Liberal Arts