Look out Kenneth Starr and Alan Ginsburg, Princeton has a new breed of lawyers on the way.
On Feb. 22, the Princeton Mock Trial team brought home top honors at the New England Regional Tournament held at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. According to Mock Trial secretary Vance Serchuk '01, the victory ensures that the team will advance to the national competition in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mock Trial is a courtroom simulation in which students act as trial lawyers and witnesses. Practicing attorneys score the groups on the basis of legal knowledge, argumentation and performance, Serchuk said.
In an email, Serchuk described the scenario of this year's fictitious case as a homicide trial involving the murder of a cocaine addict by his media-celebrity mother who claimed she was acting in self-defense.
Twenty other teams competed in the Feb. 22 tournament. Because each team either prosecuted or defended the case, the students had to be prepared to present both sides of the case. "This means that a lot of things are still up in the air until the round starts," said Mock Trial founder Michael Morley '00.
Morley founded Mock Trial last year in response to the University's lack of a chapter of the national organization, he said.
"Princeton was one of the few upper-tier colleges without a mock trial team," Morley said.
Since its foundation, Mock Trial has been very successful in its competitions. During their first year of competition the Princeton team was named the New Jersey state champions. At their first varsity competition, held in fall 1997 at Carnegie-Mellon University, the team did not lose a single round. Today, the team is undefeated , Morley said.
The American Mock Trial Association National Tournament will be held April 3-5. In preparation, the team will be holding weekly practice meetings, as well as individual meetings with attorneys affiliated with the Mercer County Bar Association, Morley said.
"We must constantly be rethinking our case strategy," Morley said. "There is now a higher level of challenge and this will involve a lot of practice, definitely."
Mock Trial meetings are held Tuesday evenings in Whig Hall. The team is preparing to send a state-level team to compete at Drew University in mid-March. In addition, the team will host a high school tournament in April. According to Morley, the team will scrimmage other local high school teams in preparation for upcoming competitions.
This year's team members included Morley, Serchuk and Ryan Billings '01. Peter Moyers '00, Jessica Huddleston '99, Pete DeYoung '00 and Vijay Ramachandran '00 acted as "witnesses." At the regional tournament, Ramachandran won a prize for 'best witness.'