EMU's mock trial team gears up for national championship April 16-18 after winning in opening-round championship series

by Pamela Young, Published March 24, 2010

YPSILANTI - If you’ve ever wondered how trial lawyers hone their courtroom moves, just ask Eastern Michigan University’s award-winning mock trial team.

EMU is one of only six regional teams advancing to The American Mock Trial Association’s National Championship Tournament April 16-18 in Memphis, Tenn. The competition will feature 48 teams from across the country, including those from Ivy League schools.

A mock trial is an academic activity designed to challenge undergraduate students interested in law, debate and other forms of forensics. Students are divided into teams and given a court case, where they compete in roles as prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses.

“Eastern Michigan’s bid to the national championship is illustrative of what the University does best – student and faculty collaboration,” said Barry Pyle, associate professor in political science and the team’s academic adviser.  “It is the culmination of 10 to 15 hours of practice a week and numerous weekends traveling to engage in competition.”

Attorney Mark Maironis, a pre-law adviser in political science, also coaches the EMU teams.

Representing Eastern are seniors Andrew Hintz, Coldwater; Angela Hoxie, Ann Arbor; Allegra Lanni, New Baltimore; Bruce Elsey, Warren; and Scott Habowski, Southfield. Also competing are Adam Dreher, a junior from Jackson, and Kenneth Foisy, a sophomore from Livonia.

 Participants begin each round with opening arguments from each side. Then the plaintiff  (prosecution) calls three witnesses.  Each witness is cross examined by the defense.  Once the plaintiff rests, the defense calls its witnesses who are cross examined. 

Closing arguments follow. Attorneys are scored on opening and closing presentations and on their direct and cross examinations. 

To get to the nationals, Eastern won a regional event February in South Bend, and then excelled in the opening rounds of the national championship, taking fourth place March 12-14 in Waukegan, Ill. EMU toppled universities such as Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State, Case Western Reserve and Bowling Green in the regional. Now the university goes on to Tennessee to compete nationally.

During the March event, two EMU students won trophies for their performances.  Andrew Hinz, named an outstanding attorney, was judged on presentation and ability as an attorney to integrate the substantive, legal and procedural aspects of the case. Hinz and teammate Adam Dreher also received outstanding witness honors. They were scored on their performances as witnesses under direct and cross examination. 

Eastern Michigan had approximately 30 students who were active in mock trial during the past year.

The American Mock Trial Association was founded in 1985 by the dean of Drake Law School. The association hosts regional and national level competitions for undergraduate students, who compete in trial simulations. The simulations help students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, as well as knowledge of legal practices and procedures.

Pamela Young

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