In mock trial competition at the Pacific Valley Regional last month, CMC's Team 732 was named Outstanding Trial Team, placing 4th out of a total of 28 teams and earning a slot in the Desert Classic National Tournament to be held this week at Arizona State University in Tucson, March 14-16. The regional college competition, hosted by CMC and run by members of Team 734, was under the auspices of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA).
Several CMC students earned individual awards at the Pacific Valley regionals. Chelsea Norell '08 (Team 732) and Abhi Nemani '10 (Team 733) were named Outstanding Attorneys; Sarah Potter '08 (Team 732) and Darell Hayes '10 (Team 733) were named Outstanding Witnesses.
"Mock Trial has been a highlight of my CMC career," says Nemani, whose Team 733 earned an Honorable Mention at the Pacific Valley Regional. "Our program includes sufficient amounts of dedication, talent, quirkiness and nerdiness. I enjoy every part of the experience: enthralling analysis before competition, theatrical performance in the courtroom, and light-hearted revelry throughout."
AMTA also announced that CMC's team 734, which came in fourth place and was named an Outstanding Trial Team at the University of California, Irvine Beach Party Invitational Tournament last semester, likewise earned a competition spot at the Desert Classic. At the UCI competition, Martin Gilbert '09 (who directed last month's Pacific Valley Regionals at CMC) was named an Outstanding Attorney and Meghan Reddy '10 was named Outstanding Witness.
CMC's Mock Trial program took root more than a decade ago, with this year's mock trial teams coached by attorney Richard MacNaughton '66 with CMC visiting instructor Elenor Taylor '81 acting as faculty advisor.
Taylor, who earned her J.D. at George Washington University after graduating from CMC, began leading the Mock Trial program at CMC during her first year at the College in 1997, as director of alumni relations. Her former role as advisor and attorney coach is now assumed by MacNaughton, while she functions "mainly as the clearinghouse for information, making sure teams are registered with AMTA, etc."
The Mock Trial program is student-run, with an emphasis on organizational skills. Students are motivated to schedule practices, recruit and audition new members, and arrange participation in invitational tournaments. Indeed, the Pacific Valley Regional hosted by CMC, was a student-coordinated tournament.
Using case materials provided by AMTA, CMC Mock Trial devotes its time to evaluating and understanding facts and issues through a legal curriculum and to developing witness personalities and effective speaking skills in order to present the case in a competitive format. Mock Trial offers a practical tool for legal instruction to its students, as well as an ability to travel nationally to compete against the top colleges and universities in the country.
In addition to developing critical thinking and presentation skills and gaining knowledge about different areas of law and legal practices and procedures, Taylor believes that students involved in mock trials gain an appreciation for the balance of individual rights and responsibilities in our society and an appreciation for the important role our legal system plays in maintaining that balance.
"Mock trial students practice discipline, build teams, and develop strategies ideals correlated with leadership," she says.
According to Nemani, mock trial demands mastery of the information to such a point that you can comfortably tell a real lawyer that he or she is in error.
"I'm planning on attending law school, and I've been assured that these skills will help me there," Nemani says. "But that's secondary. The program breeds confidence and develops mental acuity. Best of all, it's among friends. I can't ask for much more from an extracurricular activity."