Mock Trial Association hosts first invitational

Mock Trial Association hosts first invitational

Photo courtesy of Aly LaRoche

While lightning crackled and winds howled across Tuscaloosa this past weekend, student voices boomed inside of a simulated courtroom setting in ten Hoor Hall.

The UA Mock Trial Association invited teams from nine different schools across the region to showcase their deliberative skills this past Saturday and Sunday on campus. Teams from each school, as well as three teams from The University of Alabama, competed by presenting court cases as both plaintiff and defendant attorneys, learning to represent and argue for both sides in a simulated courtroom environment.

Allen Linken, assistant professor of political science, serves as coach to the Mock Trial Association at the University, however the organization is largely student-led. According to Linken, this was the first time that the University has ever hosted a mock trial competition in its six years of operation.

In those six years, the Mock Trial Association has been picking up plenty of steam, recently coming in first place at two separate tournaments held at Middle Tennessee State University and University of West Florida.

At MTSU, in one of the largest competitions in the nation which boasts over 50 teams, the organization members also picked up eight individual awards, a feat that Linken indicated was particularly impressive.

The association is intended to provide pre-law students with a simulacrum of experience in deliberative case presentation, but Linken says that learning how to make an argument is only one of the many benefits given to students.

“The jewel secret of mock trial [is]… it’s great for learning how to speak," Sabrina Geisler said. "It’s great for learning how to react to situations that you can’t possibly fathom, and you’re required to think on your feet about how to react to them.”

Geisler is a freshman majoring in economics and Spanish. She participated in mock trials in high school, and participated in the weekend tournament on one of the University’s three teams. She also represented the Mock Trial Association in MTSU and the Argo UWF Invitational.

“We come up with our case theory, our own theme," Geisler said. "Each thing can be twisted in a different way, depending on the team.”

Geisler’s team was tasked with a case involving alleged age discrimination during one of the four rounds. The members of each competing team had to present clear and concise arguments to a pseudo-jury, and the presenters take on more dramatic affects in order to effectively persuade their audience.

Come the end of the tournament, Alabama's teams took both first and second place, as well as six individual awards. Josie Rhykus, captain of the winning team, was incredibly impressed by her team's performance. 

"My proudest moment of the weekend was when a trial attorney told our team, consisting of mostly people who joined the UA mock trial team this past August, that we had better presence than lawyers he had seen go before federal judges," said Rhykus, a sophomore majoring in political science. "Our team of 18 and 19 year-olds won with professionalism, and I couldn't be prouder."

The Mock Trial Association will attend at least two more tournaments this semester, and possibly be invited to participate in a national mock trial competition in April.

According to their website, all students are welcome to participate in tryouts in September of each year. For more information on the Mock Trial Association, you can visit uamocktrial.com.

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