Members of UD's Mock Trial team prepare for nationals.

Mock Trial success

UD team competes for national mock trial championship


2:51 p.m., April 16, 2015--Eight students from the University of Delaware’s Mock Trial team will compete in the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) national championship tournament April 17-19 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The students qualified for the 31st annual tournament with a successful appearance last month at a regional contest in Greenville, South Carolina. For the national event, 48 teams will compete at the University of Cincinnati.

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UD’s team, which is coached by 2014 graduate and Mock Trial alumnus Ryan Leonard and by Wilmington attorneys Laura Bower and Martin O’Connor, has had a successful season. The group won the AMTA Spirit Award, which recognizes teams that exemplify collegiality and sportsmanship values, and five students were recognized at a regional competition for outstanding performances as witnesses and attorneys. 

In mock trial competitions, students must apply facts and law to the year’s assigned case. They act out performances as attorneys and witnesses and are scored by a panel of lawyers on content and presentation of the case. 

The UD team has competed against elite schools with long traditions in mock trials, including Princeton, Howard and Georgetown universities and the University of Maryland. Mark Graber, a University of Maryland law professor, described the Delaware’s team as excellent.

“The kids were truly remarkable,” he said. “They are one of the top programs in the country with legitimate national championship prospects. They stack up well with the Harvard, Yale and Princeton teams that Maryland has faced this year and in past years.” 

The season for UD’s team runs from August to late April. Students say they dedicate large amounts of time to practice, much like the commitment of a varsity sport. Beginning in August, the AMTA announces the case for the year, and teams begin writing and practicing their witness and attorney statements in preparation for regionals and nationals. 

Instead of going home for spring break, the team members remained on campus to continue practicing for nationals.

“I have spent more time with them than not with them these past few months,” said Phil Pasquarello, the club president. “We’re all good friends, and that makes coming to practice fun. The best part is the fun we have together.”

Last year was the first time UD’s team, which had been revived by Leonard while he was an undergraduate, made it to nationals.

“Getting to nationals is an achievement in and of itself,” Pasquarello said. “The expectations going into it are really high, especially now that it’s higher than it was. It’s best when you exceed those expectations. Our mindset going into this is to place top 10 in the country. If we did that, I’d be really happy.” 

This is Pasquarello’s second year as club president of the Mock Trial team. A senior with a double major in political science and economics, he plans to attend law school in the fall in his hometown, Philadelphia, at Drexel University. 

Not all members of the team are planning to become lawyers, but participating in mock trial competitions offers benefits to everyone, the students say. It is a way for them to master the art of public speaking by learning to make thoughtful arguments and practicing presentation skills. 

At the national tournament, UD will compete in the Taft Division against 24 other teams, including last year’s winner, the University of California.

Members of the team, in addition to Pasquarello, are Kristina Biddle, Andrew Donnelly, Eric Holleran, Ellie Wallace, Cody Reeves, Shauna Nolan and Haley Lamontagne.

Article by Ashley Heller

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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