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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis mock trial team hosts tournament

Published: November 6, 2009
Section: News

The Brandeis University Mock Trial Association (BUMTA) hosted its fourth annual Justice Louis Brandeis Invitational Tournament on campus last weekend, attracting 21 teams from 12 universities.

Brandeis Mock Trial staged the tournament in the North Academic Quad on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

Teams from Boston College, Brown University, Cornell University, Harvard College, University of Southern California, Yale University and other schools competed, with most sending two teams each.

Of the four Brandeis teams, two participated. Members of the other two teams were involved in tournament operations.

Harvard came in first place overall.

Of the two Brandeis teams, one came in eighth place with a record of five wins and three losses in four rounds, each of which were scored by two judges. The other team had a record of two wins, five losses and one tie.

Michelle Faits ’10 and Nathan Robinson ’11 received individual awards for their performance as witnesses, while Hannah Perlman ’11 received an individual award as an attorney. Each team consists of at least six people—three attorneys and three witnesses.

Mock trial tournaments revolve around a case written by the American Mock Trial Association. This year’s case revolves around the murder of an entertainment mogul, with one of his partners suspected of the crime and another partner serving as a witness in the trial.

Though all teams get the same information, each pursues the case differently.

“What’s notable…is that none of our teams are stacked—we have an even balance of new and experienced people,” said BUMTA President Hannelore Sklar ’10, noting that this allows new members to learn and gain experience early in competition.

“Strategies will differ because [teams] call different witnesses or have different theories about the case. So, while we rely on the same materials, things do get changed,” said Sklar.

“That’s another good thing about having an invitational tournament. It’s a good opportunity to see if teams are pulling particularly strange line-ups or have different views of the case.”

“[Hosting a tournament] ups your standing among teams in the rest of the country,” Sklar said.

“It’s also a way to make money for the club, as we charge [other teams] a fee,” she said.

In addition to providing rooms for tournament rounds, BUMTA also supplied judges for each round. Between 25 and 30 judges were required per round, as at least two judges must be present to score each competition. The club recruited recent alumni, lawyers, faculty and staff affiliated with Brandeis. For some judges, the club arranged transportation to campus.

“We also ran our own tabulation room. Usually people will bring in outside coaches or someone who’s familiar with how it works to do it for them. Two of our members from our executive board—Ryan [Fanning ’10] and Danielle [Gewurz ’10]—learned how to do tabulation and ran it,” said Sklar.

One coach was so impressed with their tabulation that he suggested that the two tabulate scores at the Harvard invitational, though the offer had to be declined as Brandeis teams will be competing there.

For teams competing from outside of the Boston area, the club also negotiated a discount fee at the Waltham Doubletree Suites.

This weekend, the two Brandeis teams that did not compete in the tournament will be competing at Harvard. All four Brandeis teams will then compete the next weekend, with two at the University of Pennsylvania and the other two at Tufts.

The teams will then be stacked with the most experienced participants joining the top two teams, which will then go to the Yale Invitational at the beginning of December.

After another invitational in January, Brandeis Mock Trial will participate in the regional tournament with hopes of advancing to the national championship.

Reflecting on last weekend’s tournament, Sklar had only positive things to say about it.“

Every year we’ve been learning more and more and building on it. Thus far, this has been the smoothest and best-run tournament,” she said,

Danielle Gewurz is an editor for The Brandeis Hoot.