HARTFORD, CT, March 17, 2011 – The Trinity mock trial team is riding an unlikely wave to the finals of the American Mock Trial Association’s national championship tournament.
The College’s scrappy competitors, who had been projected to finish next to last in the second round of the Mock Trial competition at Pace University in White Plains, NY, surprised everyone. They finished in the top six and are headed to the finals to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 15 through April 17.
Thus, of the 642 teams that entered the competition in their quest for the national crown, only 48 are left, and Trinity is among them.
Reaching the finals marks a giant leap for the Trinity team, which last year made it to the second round for the first time. The team is only four years old and lacks the resources of many of its more seasoned and professionally coached rivals, including Yale, Columbia, among other top institutions.
The students’ accomplishment did not go unnoticed by the campus community. “It is always a pleasure to celebrate the victories of our sports teams, but this intellectual achievement is especially sweet,” said Edward Cabot, adjunct professor of public policy, who has taught several team members.
Although Trinity’s team is moving on, last weekend’s competition was not exactly a walk in the park.
“It was a ridiculously competitive tournament in which there were no runaway teams,” said Zachary Green ’11, who along with Michael Galligan ’11, is co-president. “In fact, going into the last round, there was a five-way tie for first place.”
The winner was determined using a tiebreaker predicated on strength of schedule. On that basis, Trinity was awarded a spot in the finals. Among the teams that Trinity defeated were those from Syracuse, Brown and Dickinson, the latter two having made it to the national championship last year.
Although the civil case that is argued at each level of the competition is virtually the same, some of the details change from round to round.
“They change the fact pattern,” said Galligan. “They throw in a monkey wrench because at this point, every team has been arguing the same case since last August.”
Essentially, Davis vs. Happyland involves a 2-year-old who dies after swallowing 25 beads made by a toy company. It’s unclear whether the toddler’s death, caused by respiratory failure, was due to the company’s negligence. The mock trial teams are split up so that some of the students represent the child’s family and some argue on behalf of the manufacturer.
In addition to the team from Trinity, others that will move on from the Pace University regional to the national event include two teams from Boston University and one each from New York University, Tufts and Brown. They will be joined by colleges and universities from other parts of the country.
Besides Green and Galligan, Trinity’s team includes Stephen Gruendel ’11; Leslie Ahlstrand ’12; Zoe Bartholomay ’12; Andres Delgadillo ’13; James Geisler ’14; and Mary Sullivan ’13. Pamela Cameron and Joseph Rossetti, associates with the law firm of Sinoway, McEnery, Messy & Sullivan, who have coached the team on a part-time basis, may also make the trip.
The American Mock Trial Association was founded in 1985 by Richard Caulkins, dean of the Drake University Law School. By engaging students in trial simulations, students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, as well as knowledge of legal practices and procedures.