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Mock trial competes at UCLA

Mel Flanagan | Monday, November 7, 2011

The Notre Dame Mock Trial team sent teams to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) this weekend for its first competition of the year, and members said they performed well despite tough competition.

The team, which is broken down into four smaller groups for competition purposes, sent its top two teams to UCLA for an invitational competition against 18 others.

Junior Lauren Dugas, treasurer of the team, said the team performed respectably.

“It’s at a national level, so it’s pretty stiff competition,” she said. “We did okay for our first competition [of the year] at this difficulty level.”

Although the team participates in invitational competitions throughout the fall, senior co-president Stephen Payne said these contests do not count toward the team’s overall performance at the end of the school year.

“Our actual competitions start in February with regionals and then it goes on from there to ‘super regionals’ and then the national championship in April,” he said. “Before then the invitational tournament are sort of like a preseason, just practice.”

Dugas said the competitions consist of four rounds, two in which the team acts as the prosecution and two in which the teams acts as the defense.

“You go through the entire court proceedings, opening statement, direct and cross examinations of the prosecution witnesses, direct and cross examinations of the defense witnesses and closing arguments,” she said.

Three judges score the trials, awarding up to 10 points for each individual aspect, Dugas said. The team with the most points at the end of the trial wins that particular ballot.

Sophomore team member Allie Soisson said the team prepares for the competition by attending two classes a week with their professor Will Dwyer, a lawyer from Chicago.

“We also work on our own individual parts and collaborate in team practices on what we think needs the most work,” Soisson said.

Soisson said the competition this weekend at UCLA was difficult.

“The California schools tend to be some of the best schools in the country and the competition was very strong there,” she said. “I think we were all hoping to do very well but everyone was impressed by the teams we were able to see there.”

Despite the high level of competition, Payne said the tone at the invitationals is more casual than that of competitions in the spring.

“When you get to the competitions that start counting, I think some of the rounds we get pretty intense,” he said. “Obviously it’s part of the activity because it’s like you’re putting on a court case.”

Payne said Notre Dame’s relationship with other teams varies.

“Some times you may have some rivalry with and other teams you might be very friendly with,” he said. “Regardless I’d say the atmosphere can get pretty tense.”

For some of the team members, like Dugas, mock trial serves as a preparation for future careers in law.

“I did mock trial in high school and then I joined the team freshman year thinking I might want to go into law,” she said. “Since then, I’ve continued with the organization and my education and I’ve realized it’s something I want to do.”

However, Payne said many others participate in mock trial for reasons other than preparation for law school.

“It’s really valuable in terms of practicing public speaking and making an argument,” he said. “Some people in the program certainly don’t want to go to law school, they just enjoy it.”