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Department of Political Science Mock Trial mock_trail

UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS MOCK TRIAL TEAM

The Department of Political Science sponsors the University of Memphis Mock Trial Team. The group, which is composed of current or recently graduated students from various majors throughout the University, competes annually in events conducted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). These tournaments are held on a regional and national level during the spring semester of each academic year and feature teams from across the United States.

Mock Trial: What Is It?

The University Team consists of six to ten students each year, with up to eight members traveling to AMTA events as representatives of the University of Memphis. In competition, team members take the roles of attorneys and witnesses in the trial of either a civil or criminal case. Fact scenarios for each competition are provided by AMTA and change each year. During competition, teams must be prepared to present and argue the case from either plaintiff (or prosecutor) and defendant’s perspective.

 Teams that play in each round are judged by local panels of legal experts on issues such as style, knowledge of courtroom procedure, familiarity with evidentiary principles and overall presentation. The performance of both team attorneys and witnesses are scored by judges, who may include members of the local judiciary, bar or related fields. Teams that score the most points in a competitive round are declared winners and those with the greatest number of wins may qualify for National Tournaments.

Mock Trial: Why Should I Participate?

The purpose of the Mock Trial experience at the University of Memphis is to provide students, especially those interested in legal careers, with the opportunity to gain knowledge about the U.S. legal system, American jurisprudence and trial court procedures by hands on experience. This is particularly important for students who are considering litigation as a concentration within a legal career, as students will learn directly how to prepare a case for trial and will participate in the presentation of it in a competitive environment.

Students from any department/college within the University are welcome to participate in Mock Trial.  Those who do so may also earn up to six hours upper division credit (three hours per semester) for this activity. However, departmental/college requirements concerning the use of these credits toward a degree program may vary; therefore students are urged to consult with the appropriate academic advisor before becoming involved with the program.

Mock Trial: How Do I Get Involved?

To join Mock Trial, students must enroll in POLS 4709. Classes for the fall semester form the pool of students from which the University Mock Trial Team is chosen. Class size is limited, so students who are interested in pursuing Mock Trial should contact the Academic Coordinator promptly, since admission is limited to those who receive permits from the instructor.

Students from any department/college may take this course, with permission of the instructor. However, it is important for prospective class members to note that Mock Trial is a very LABOR INTENSIVE course. Participants will be expected to not only attend the weekly scheduled class sessions but be prepared to put in a number of hours outside class in preparation of classroom activities. If the schedule of a prospective class member will not allow for the additional hours needed for preparation, investigate other options. To succeed in Mock Trial, you must be prepared!

The fall semester POLS 4709 class will explore elements of trial preparation, rules of evidence, courtroom procedure and presentation techniques. Class members will be given the opportunity to display their skills in these areas through competitive simulations of the current or previous AMTA provided case scenarios. During the semester, the University Mock Trial Team and alternates are selected. Students may earn three hours upper division credit for this course.

POLS 4709 is also offered in the spring semester of each academic year. This course is open only to University Mock Trial Team members and alternates. Time during this semester is devoted entirely to preparation for regional and/or national competitions and participation in them. Team members are expected to meet during regularly scheduled class time, along with nights and weekends, as needed, to meet this goal. Students may earn three upper division credit hours for this course.

Mock Trial: What Are the Costs?

Beyond course fees and books, members of the University Mock Trial team will incur travel costs when going to various regional or national tournaments. While the Department of Political Science underwrites the cost of AMTA registration fees, students should be prepared to pick up expenses when traveling to and from these locations.

In recent years, the Mock Trial Team has worked with organizations within the University, such as Student Government Association, to defray some of the team members’ expenses for travel. However, funding from such sources is not guaranteed.

In addition, the Mock Trial team has successfully sought financial support from friends, alumni, faculty, private businesses and professional groups to cover these costs in recent years. While the Mock Trial team has been able to meet some of the expenses through fundraising activities, prospective Mock Trial team members should plan to pick up their expenses while traveling with the Team unless otherwise informed.

Beyond the potential financial commitment, prospective Mock Trial participants must consider the cost in terms of time. Mock Trial is an invaluable experience, but it is hard work!! Mock Trial is more than a twice weekly classroom session; it requires a personal schedule that permits intense devotion to detailed preparation of your case in much the same way as attorneys prepare for trial. When you join Mock Trial, be prepared to give your all!!

Mock Trial: What Is Our Track Record?

The Mock Trial program at the University of Memphis is relatively new, beginning with the sponsorship by the Department of Political Science in 1999-2000. Since then, the University’s teams have participated in regional and national AMTA tournaments. In 2000 the Team finished second in the Regional Tournament and competed in the National Tournament.

In 2005, the University team placed sixth among twenty two teams at the Mid-South Regional Tournament in Birmingham. As a result, the team was invited to the National Tournament in Richmond, Kentucky in March. Despite several close competitions, the team did not advance further.

Mock Trial: Where Do I Get More Information?

For more general information, see Vile, John, Pleasing the Court: Mock Trial Handbook or the American Mock Trial Association web site at www.collegemocktrial.org.

Click here for the latest edition of the Department of Political Science Newsletter PS News. Send your ideas to Matthias Kaelberer, at: mkaelbrr@memphis.edu.

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Last Updated: 11/12/12