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Home Mock Trial Tournament Builds Team Experience

January 25th, 2011

By Sarah Pride. Pictures by Art Cox.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Volunteer judges from the community witness a mock trial round at PHC.

A visiting team presents its case.

A white van emblazoned on the side with the words “Bob Jones University” pulled to a stop in front of Founder’s Hall and released several individuals in dark suits. In the lobby and Library Study Center, they joined clusters of college students from across the country. An animated buzz filled the air as “witnesses” and “attorneys” planned their presentations for Patrick Henry College’s first home mock trial tournament.

PHC Junior Logan Spena, mock trial competitor

“Confidence is key; confidence is gained in practice,” said one student from UNC Chapel Hill, explaining why her team had driven more than five hours to Purcellville. “This tournament will prepare us for the intense competition at regionals.”

PHC’s mock trial coach, Dr. Frank Guliuzza, said that the College hosted the tournament for that very reason—experience. Most of the students on PHC’s mock trial team just returned from a successful championship bid at the ACMA national moot court tournament in New Orleans, winning the College’s fifth national trophy in seven years. Hosting a regional mock trial tournament allowed team members to switch gears and motivate themselves for mock trial.

“We only practiced for three days after we returned from moot court nationals, and we competed against some teams who have prepared for four months,” noted Dr. Guliuzza. “So, we didn’t have a real reason to expect any competitive success at the tournament; we just wanted the experience. Nevertheless, our students acquitted themselves well. If we build on this weekend, we’ll have an opportunity next month, when it really counts.”

Overall, one of PHC’s trial teams placed fifth in the tournament. Senior Joanna Griffith received a first-place award as an outstanding attorney, while senior Andrew Leaming won third place as an outstanding witness.

Junior Ardee Coolidge explains mock trial rules to volunteer judges.

The College will compete next month at two national qualifying tournaments sponsored by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). On February 11-13, they will travel to Easton, PA, and on February 19-20, to Baltimore MD. The Maryland tournament is hosted by the University of Maryland, five-time AMTA national champions.

Mock trial competitors take on the personas of witnesses or attorneys in a court case. They are judged both on the quality of their legal arguments and on their ability to stay in character.

“Mock trial combines two of my favorite things: drama and debating,” enthuses junior Ardee Coolidge, mock trial team member. “It’s a game of chess. You have to be three steps in front of your opponent, or else you’ll fall behind.”

Final Tournament Results:

Outstanding Trial Teams

1st – University of North Carolina A
2nd – George Washington University
3rd – University of North Carolina B
4th – Bob Jones University
5th – Patrick Henry College A

Outstanding Attorneys

1st – Joanna Griffith – Patrick Henry College
2nd – Sammy Wong – George Washington University
3rd – Valerie Berg – George Washington University
4th – Rashmi Iyer – University of North Carolina
5th – Shane Woody – Weber State University

Outstanding Witnesses

1st – Christie Lambden – University of North Carolina
2nd – Benjamin Berk – University of North Carolina
3rd – Andrew Leaming – Patrick Henry College
4th – Stefanie Nifeneeker – Bob Jones University
5th – Stephanie Reed – American University