Fall 2013 mock trial re-cap
Now that the fall mock trial season has drawn to a close, we can fully re-cap and appreciate the successes of the GGU Litigation Center. One thing is for sure, the GGU Litigation Center showed the nation that GGU advocates are a force to be reckoned with.
It Starts With the Fundamentals
Over the past three months, GGU has competed in five competitions and hosted a national competition of our own. However, building championship mock trial teams starts long before each semester begins. Professor Porter’s Summer Trial and Evidence (STEP) program provides 25 1L summer students with the foundation necessary to compete at a national level. This past summer, the third annual STEP class followed in the path of each previous class – going through a week-long boot camp led by professors and judges from across the nation, followed by eight weeks of intensive trial advocacy and evidence training – all culminating in a final trial. Whether through STEP or GGU Litigation’s various trial courses, all students must have taken or be enrolled in trial advocacy and evidence in order to compete in mock trial and Professor Porter’s training is recognizable across the country. It is no surprise when coaches from other schools can pinpoint GGU teams solely by: the strength of our advocacy, professionalism, and command of the facts and rules of evidence.
Then Comes Hard Work – Practice and Preparation
After going through tryouts and team selection, the teams get to work. The commitment that our students and coaches make cannot be taken lightly. Once case files are released, each team has practice three days per week in three-hour time blocks. Due to the class and work schedule of our students and the work schedules of our coaches, the only available times for practice usually surround Friday nights and Sunday mornings. Effectively giving up their weekends, our teams work tirelessly developing case theory, themes, evidentiary hurdles, and making sure courtroom demeanor becomes second nature. Late nights with the Baxter Fellows and conference calls to Professor Porter while he coaches kindergarten soccer are all too familiar to our mock trial competitors; anything to hold up a first place trophy. However, as we’ve seen from the past years, our teams get out of mock trial what they put into it. With hard work and preparation, come championships and awards. Most importantly, the skills that our mock trial teams develop during practice and competition translate directly to actual practice.
When The Hard Work Pays Off – The Competitions
Our first competition was not a competition at all, rather, an innovative type of competition called a “Mock Trial Collaboration.” There, teams tried cases from jury selection (voir dire) through closing arguments, in a round robin fashion. There were four teams: McGeorge, Southern Illinois, GGU, and a hybrid team of two GGU students and two Southern Illinois students. With only three weeks to prepare, six of our finest 2Ls stormed McGeorge for a full day of trial. Although we did not come away with a victory, our students walked away with several individual awards: Best Advocates went to Jory Zalona and Anisa Sirur; Best Voir Dire went to Sylvia Nguyen; Best Opening Statement went to Anna Kashtanova; and Best Direct Examination went to Jared Pursell. Congrats! The teams consisted of all 2Ls: Jory Zalona, Anisa Sirur, Jared Pursell, Sylvia Nguyen, Anna Kashtanova, and Dominic Ripoli. They were coached by GGU Alumnus Erik Knuppel. Please visit the Advocacy Teaching Blog at http://advocacyteaching.blogspot.com/2013/10/more-on-mock-trial-collaborations.html?m=1 for the full article about this collaborative idea that is sweeping the nation.
Stetson National Civil Pretrial Competition
During the second weekend of October, four of our 3Ls took their talents to St. Petersburg, Florida to compete in the National Pretrial Competition. The competition played host to 16 of the best schools in the country. As part of the competition, our team had submitted a plaintiff’s and defendant’s brief on a civil procedure issue. At the competition, the court held oral arguments on the briefs, which then led to an evidentiary hearing where teams called two witnesses and presented closing arguments. While our team performed very well, they came a just two points shy of advancing to the elimination rounds of the competition. Our team consisted of 3Ls: Mark Heisey, Chanelle Bowman, Colleen Clark, and Ellen Billingsly. They were coached by GGU Alumnus, Alex Jones. Congrats team!
CACJ National Criminal Mock Trial Competition
One week after the Stetson competition, GGU fielded another team of standout 3Ls to compete in a national criminal competition against 24 teams from across the nation. After storming through the preliminary rounds, our team showed just how resilient they were by winning the next two trials; advancing to the finals. With some added drama, the team was matched up against Northwestern, who they had faced in the first round of the competition. Our prosecution team would take on Northwestern’s defense team before District Court Judge Maxine Chesney – presiding, and the San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Superior Court Judge Harry Dorfman as the jury. After a hard fought trial, the team stood hopeful that it was enough to raise the first-place trophy. However, in mock trial, as in life, the jury may not always find for you and on that day, they did not. Northwestern took the crown, and they certainly deserved it. Even with the heartbreaking news, our team stood up like only GGU students can, and accepted their second-place trophy with dignity. Our team consisted of 3Ls: Jaclyn Merkis, Aseil Mohmoud, Brooke Perkins, and Brent Kling. They were coached by GGU Alumna, VJ Chetty. Congrats on showing the nation what GGU can do!
ABA Labor and Employment National Trial Advocacy Competition
Not to be out-shined by their classmates, one week after GGU took second-place in a national criminal competition, two GGU teams geared up for a civil competition – the regional championships for the ABA Labor and Employment competition. For two days, our teams fought it out against schools from all over the country (although this was a regional, schools from Texas and South Dakota were somehow in the San Francisco region). At the end of the first night of competition, there was both good and bad news. One of our teams would advance to the semi-finals the next day, however, the other GGU team fell just short of advancing. However, inspired and determined to carry forward, our all 3L team of Zoe Tellman, Lauren Whitted, Sunita Popal, and Dustin Helmer advanced through the semi-finals and on to the finals. Before the final round began, Coach Julia Levitskaia and Baxter Fellow Katya Salganick reminded the team that just one year before, Coach Julia had watched as Baxter Katya beat Hastings in the exact same final round. With the motivation to repeat, the team did just that – beating Hastings in the final round and advancing to the National Finals, which takes place in January! Congratulations to the team on advancing to Nationals and congrats to Coach Julia and Baxter Katya on the back-to-back championships!
The two teams:
Team 1: 3Ls: Zoe Tellman, Lauren Whitted, Sunita Popal, and Dustin Helmer. They were coached by GGU Alumnus Julia Levitskaia.
Team 2: 2Ls - Lori Mullins and Jacob Colvin; 3Ls – Jamie Down and Kassie Cardullo. They were coached by GGU Alumnus Brandon Schantz.
San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association Trial Advocacy Competition
With the bar raised by GGUs first and second place finishes in the weeks preceding, our 2L SFTLA team was ready to keep the winning attitude alive and well. The SFTLA competition plays host to Bay Area schools competing against each other in a one day competition in order to crown a true “Best of the Bay.” This year, the schools competing were Stanford, Hastings, Santa Clara, and GGU. First up was GGU v. Hastings. A smooth trial from both sides had everyone smiling by the time the jury members were ready to deliberate. Thankfully, hopes of victory were still alive as the panel of all plaintiffs’ attorneys found for our defense team – Santa Clara was on the docket for the afternoon round. With no shortage of drama throughout the trial, no one was sure who would walk away with victory after our plaintiffs took on Santa Clara’s defense. However, as the competition director began reading the scores, it became clear what was going on – they were reading the scores from lowest to highest. With the announcement of Santa Clara’s score (431), Stanford’s score (437), and Hastings’ score (451) all read, there was only one team left to read! Sure enough, with a score of 491 points in the competition, GGU was crowned “Best of the Bay” for the second year in a row! Congrats to 2Ls: Jory Zalona, Anisa Sirur, Jared Pursell, Sylvia Nguyen, and Anna Kashtanova and Coach Erik Knuppel!
Mock Trial Wrap-Up
It truly was a special semester for GGU Mock Trial. The only way to break it down is to take a look at the semester by the numbers:
23 – Mock Trial Competitors
23 – Fierce Competitors
6 – Teams and Coaches
5 – Competitions
2 – Championships
1 – Second Place Finish
1 – Extremely Proud Litigation Director
1 – Incredible School
Special thanks to Dean Van Cleave, Kirk Eardley, all of the coaches and students, and GGU as whole!
3L Aseil Mohmoud delivering her trademark closing arguments at CACJ.
ABA Labor teams (minus Zoe and Jamie) from left to right: 2L Lori Mullins, 3L Lauren Whitted, 2L Jacob Colvin, 3L Dustin Helmer, 3L Sunita Popal, Coach Brandon Schantz, Coach Julia Levitskaia, 3L Kassie Cardullo, 3L Khushil Naik, and Baxter Fellow Katya Salganick.
The Best of the Bay from left to right: Baxter Fellow Blair Pickus, 2Ls - Jory Zalona, Anisa Sirur, Sylvia Nguyen, Jared Pursell - and Coach Erik Knuppel.
Our team of 3L all-stars holding the second-place trophy at CACJ. From left to right: Brooke Perkins, Aseil Mohmoud, Jaclyn Merkis, and Brent Kling.
ABA Regional Champions from left to right: Dustin Helmer, Sunita Popal, Coach Julia Levitskaia, Zoe Tellman, and Lauren Whitted.