Members of the mock trial team further their interest in the justice system and public speaking.
As notes, props, pads and pens lay spread out across the table, 10 selected teammates fill a classroom with competitive attitudes and dedicated spirits.
Founded in 2006, Temple’s mock trial team is made up of 19 students who have a passion for matters of law and public speaking. The majority of members have post-graduate plans to attend law school and focus on studying different aspects, ranging from corporate to environmental law.
“Students who join the team like critical arguments, but even more than that, those that join enjoy hanging out with the nerds,” said sophomore Grace Osa-edoh, a political science major. “We are always around each other and with a mock trial team, team spirit is a necessity.”
Current president Kaitlyn McCarthy, a senior criminal justice major, has been leading the team for the past year. Devoting much of her time to the team, the other members alike have little time for other obligations.
“As far as team meetings go, they are difficult to set because I have the responsibility of working around everyone’s schedule,” McCarthy said.
For the 2010-11 school year, the meetings have taken place every weekday and weekend since Oct. 1. Team meetings can range from two-to-three hours on weekdays and on weekends – meetings can last as long as a regular 9-5 p.m. workday.
The team was founded five years ago by a group of graduate students who had been part of their high school teams and wanted to fill a void by starting the first chapter at Temple.
The graduate students applied, received funding and were assigned a coach.
“We have been going strong ever since,” McCarthy said.
The American Mock Trial Association is a national organization that governs every participating university in the country. University students pay dues in September and all receive the same case with more than 300 pages from the AMTA to work on the entire year.
There are 19 students on the mock trial team, but only 10 received a bid to go to the championship.
“They are chosen based on talent, seniority and most experienced,” McCarthy said.
The team has prepared for regional competitions all year, in which they were met by success. Out of 28 schools, Temple was one of eight schools to advance to nationals.
This year’s case is based on a hypothetical situation: A mother is suing a toy company because her son allegedly died from the chemicals on the 25 beads he ate from the “Princess Beads” jewelry set.
Although the mock trial team’s members are well-prepared, there is still a bit of anxiety that comes with every competition.
“It can be a bit nerve-wracking. It’s never good when a witness you’re crossing throws a curve ball, and you have no idea how to respond,” said Michael Montalbano, a sophomore environmental science major.
The next round of competition, called the Opening Round Championships, is in Washington, D.C., on March 19-20. The final round, “Golds,” is held in Des Moines, Iowa, in April.
Members unanimously agree that although the demands of the team can be stressful, the team aspect makes it worthwhile.
“We are constantly picking at the information made available to us,” said Eric Horst, a junior economics and political science major. “The team enhances our skills of public speaking and presenting sensible arguments.”
Shanell Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.