A death under questionable circumstances. Defamation. A celebrity politician shunned from politics forever. All in a day of the life of Scripps Mock Trial.
Scripps' mock trial team began during the 2008-2009 academic year, after Scripps students split from the Pomona-Scripps Mock Trial team that formed last year. This year, nine Scripps women compete in Scripps Mock Trial: Natalie Sacks ('11), Erin Krikorian ('11), Sasha Thrailkill ('11), Sean Svoboda ('11), Alexa Bartlett ('11), Zoe Wheeler ('12,) Alyssa Bruhn ('12), Emily Chesbrough ('12) and Megan Fenton ('12).
Krikorian and Sacks, the team's leaders, have worked tirelessly to make this fledgling club fly. As Krikorian put it, "We had so many new members this year that Scripps and Pomona were able to have independent teams. Although putting the club together was tricky, it's been a success." Even though these two teams are no longer one, Pomona and Scripps still work together on mock trial, scrimmaging with each other and practicing arguments for the tournaments.
Recently, the two teams have been practicing more than ever in preparation for the regional tournament. This event, which takes place on the weekend of February 20 through 22 in Rancho Cucamonga, is the most important event of the year for mock trial teams. Because this competition determines the qualifiers for the state tournament, Scripps Mock Trial has met nearly every day for the past two weeks to prepare for the grueling trials ahead of them.
Teams from UCLA, USC and other high-power institutions will be competing alongside the new Scripps team, and the task of conducting a trial with them is a bit daunting. Fenton, however, put the situation in a different light: "Those teams may have a lot of experience, but we've put a lot of effort into preparing for this tournament, and we have a lot of heart."
The women have convened for many hours in nearly every dining hall meeting room at the 5C's, rehearsing testimonies and speeches. As the date of the tournament approaches, the members of the team have escalated the dedication to preparation. Sacks stated, "We do have five-hour long brunches at Harvey Mudd because of mock trial practice." Fenton added, "Basically, we live there."
Bartlett explained that mock trial practice doesn't end until the Harvey Mudd dining hall staff finally kicks the team out of the building. "Then we realize we've been here since brunch started, and we stayed until the people who work there were closing the dining hall after dinner." For readers who aren't familiar with this law-based extracurricular activity, mock trial is a form of debate in which teams from across the nation are given a fake law case to enact in a tournament setting. Teams from each college are expected to take both sides of the debate, both the plaintiff and the defense.
For example, in this year's case a fake gubernatorial candidate is filing suit against BNN (like "CNN," only different). The plaintiff side argues the candidate's case, which is that BNN falsely accused him of murder and is therefore guilty of libel. Libel consists of lying in a public setting. The defense takes the opposite side, that BNN is not guilty of libel.
Both sides call three witnesses each, and each witness has an affidavit, a script of sorts, which they must memorize for the competition. Along with three witnesses, each side has three lawyers, who must have a deep understanding of the laws involved in the trial, as well as objection and stipulations that come into the trial. A judge conducts the trial and ranks the teams based on how well they perform and know the law.
While this sounds simple enough, the arguments can get complicated. Along with the case, the American Mock Trial Association, or AMTA, issues case law, rules of evidence and multiple affidavits, all of which must be read and internalized before the competition.
Mock trial isn't easy, but the challenge of the event is what makes it so much fun. Thrailkill explained that she does it for "the family" that mock trial provides. Krikorian does it to "get exposed to what law school might be like before applying" and "seeing if you have what it takes to run a trial." Wheeler enjoys "spinning the rules" and "gaining confidence" and Bartlett practices "public speaking skills." Overall, by working together as a team, the team conquers an otherwise insurmountable lawsuit.
If you have the weekend open, come watch the Scripps team compete at the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse!