Teams from colleges and universities in New England, including one from Trinity, will participate in a mock trial competition this weekend, the first that Trinity has hosted. The grueling event, one in a series of “preseason” invitationals that take place before the official national competition gets underway next year, will begin Saturday, November 23 at 8:15 a.m. and conclude on Sunday, November 24 at 7 p.m.
The tournament, which will take place in various buildings on campus, including Mather, Hamlin and Seabury Halls, is open to the public, although spectators will not be allowed into the “courtrooms” after the proceedings have already begun, said Assistant Tournament Director Youlan Xiu ’15.
Trinity is a relative newcomer to the mock trial competition, with interested students joining together only a few years ago. Unlike most of the 600 teams that participate, Trinity doesn’t have a formal coach or a significant budget and the students, a highly motivated group, set up their own protocols and training sessions. Despite the drawbacks, Trinity’s teams have more than held their own, and in 2010, one of the College’s teams made it to the nationals, where it finished a very respectable 10th.
This year, Trinity is again fielding an A and B team, with the B team scheduled to take part in this weekend’s activities. Its members include Sebastien Broustra ’17, Ethan Cantor ’16, Katherine Feehan ’16, James Geisler ’14, Sam Hines ’16, Tanya Kewalramani ’14, Julia Mardeusz ’16, Andrew Miller ’17, Ursula Petersen ’15, Richard Pizzano ’17, and Sonjay Singh ’15. However, depending on how well the students do, it’s possible for a member of the B team to move up to the A team, Xiu said.
Both teams will be competing when the regionals, or the first round of the formal competition, are held early next year. Recently, Trinity’s A team attended the 6th annual Tufts University Mumbo Jumbo Invitational. That squad consisted of Bobby Boyle ’16, Ali Caless ’14, Cantor, Geisler, Meredith Munro ’14, Jhon Pacheco ’14 and Xiu. The team had its strongest preseason showing since the mock trial program was established at Trinity, finishing 4th out of 20 teams from East Coast schools.
Each of the students must play a role, such as witness or defense attorney, and often they play several roles. The A team concluded the Tufts tournament with a stellar record of 6 wins and 2 losses. The A team is also registered for the Yale Invitational on December 7 and both teams are planning to compete in the UMass Invitational in January. This season’s case is a criminal case, and the essential facts were given to the teams last summer.
Although one could assume that the students who participate are budding attorneys, Xiu said this year’s teams include biology, chemistry, economics, English literature, philosophy, psychology and Spanish majors as well as students who are majoring in public policy and law.
In terms of the Trinvitational, in addition to Trinity, the participating schools are Bryant University; Southern Connecticut State University; the University of Connecticut (two teams); the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (two teams); Wesleyan University; and Williams College.
The judges are Trinity graduates who are associated with the legal profession, Xiu said. The students who are helping to run the invitational are Tournament Director Munro; Xiu, Tab Room Director Pruyne; Administrative Director Caless; and Tournament Assistants Cantor and Mardeusz.
The American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) was founded in 1985 by Richard Calkins, dean of the Drake Law School. AMTA serves as the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competition. Through engaging in trial simulations in competition with teams from other institutions, students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, as well as knowledge of legal practices and procedures. AMTA sponsors regional and national-level competitions, as well as providing interesting and complex case materials for academic use.
Each season, AMTA hosts 24 regional tournaments, eight opening-round championship tournaments and a national championship tournament. The nationals will be held in Orlando, FL in April. Altogether, approximately 600 teams from more than 350 universities and colleges will compete in the tournaments.
Photo: Pictured from left to right are Cantor, Geisler and Bowden.