Mock trial team proves their case

The CMC Mock Trial team.

Students from Claremont McKenna’s Mock Trial team recently proved that you can be kind without losing a competitive edge.

At the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) regionals, CMC’s Mock Trial “A-Team” went 7-1, placing second overall among the other top 25 teams in their region, earning a bid to the AMTA’s Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) in March. CMC’s “A-Team” represents an elite group, as more than 700 teams competed at regionals across the country, and only a small percentage advanced to the March competition. The top six teams from each ORCS tournament will advance to AMTA's National Championship Tournament in April.

CMC hosted the Feb. 3-5 regionals, with 25 eminent teams arriving from around the western United States, including UCLA, USC, University of Arizona, and Arizona State.

Basil Lloyd-Moffett ’24, who organizes the tournament schedule and handled the logistics for the CMC weekend, was proud to share that the Claremont McKenna team “beat out major mock trial powerhouses like the Arizona schools and local rivals like Scripps and Pomona,” to come in second after UCLA.

But the team’s culture is what Lloyd-Moffett is most proud of. “We tried to be very purposeful in creating a group that was positive, that cared about each other, and that balanced the demands of competing with the (possibly more important) demands of friendship and community. I think our success has shown that you can base your team model on some degree of kindness without losing the competitive edge,” he said.

Marcie Gardner, CMC’s general counsel, who serves as the team’s coach, agreed. “This year’s group of students is really diverse and they are each contributing, and bringing something different to the group,” she said. “They all respect one another. And they're just having a really good time.”

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Preparation is rigorous, with students meeting in the evenings twice a week to practice cases with Gardner, who deploys her real-world expertise inside the classroom courtroom. Mock Trial students draft direct and cross-examination outlines, and opening and closing statements. Gardner points out, however, that honing their impromptu public speaking skills is essential to the team’s success.”

“I don’t let them use any notes,” she said. “They're memorizing things, and having to adjust on the fly. And so that's why I don't want them spending a ton of time writing an outline for the exact way they want it to go, because something will happen during the trial, and they're going to have to pivot. The key thing for all of them is speed, and then responding appropriately and professionally.”

Lloyd-Moffett, who took part in Mock Trial as a high school student, described it as a combination of “strategic thinking, impromptu speaking, theatrical presentation, and legal theory in a way that is unique but also very fun.”

While an interest in pursuing law as a career is not required, Maryum Khwaja ’24, the team’s director of training, said she was drawn to Mock Trial because she aspires to become a lawyer. “Mock Trial has given me hands-on experience with interpreting case law and in-court experience,” she said. “It's taught me how lawyers influence a jury and the large impact they can have.”

Both Lloyd-Moffett and Khwaja initially joined Mock Trial virtually as first-year students over Zoom. Each of them shared that their involvement with the team helped them feel connected to the CMC community and credited Desmond Mantle ’23 and Thayer Breazeale ’23 with helping to create a respectful and fun environment.

“Mock Trial has always felt like a family to me,” said Khwaja. “The team is always checking in on each other; we take care of each other while still pushing each other to do better. It has made my experience at CMC one I'll always cherish.”

Interested in joining Mock Trial? Email the team.

 

Anne Bergman

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