On February 21, Carleton’s Mock Trial Club attended the regional competition for the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The competition was hosted over Zoom in light of COVID-19 concerns. Two Carleton teams competed virtually against colleges across the country. One of Carleton’s teams brought home the Spirit of the American Mock Trial Association Award. The other team advanced into the next round of competitions and will compete at the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), which will take place over spring break.
Mock Trial is a club on campus that gives students opportunities to learn about law, courtroom decorum and speaking and presentations skills by mimicking courtroom trials. Teams of students, known as “mockers,” act as witnesses and attorneys to litigate both sides of a case published by the American Mock Trial Association. Participating colleges across the country meet every year to compete at regional and national competitions.
One of Carleton’s Mock Trial captains, Ellen Schlick ’23, described how the team has had to adapt to virtual competitions in the midst of COVID-19.
“Mock trial became virtual in Fall 2020, meaning that the tournaments would be held over Zoom. This meant that we had to learn the ins and outs of online trials just like real attorneys during the pandemic. A large part of mock trial is presentation, so we needed to learn how to be engaging online to keep the judge’s attention over the course of a three-hour Zoom call.”
In the past, the team has competed across the country, traveling to Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois before the pandemic. Because of the new rules and constraints associated with competing virtually, Schlick expressed hope that next season will be in-person.
“There were dozens of new virtual courtroom rules to learn, like how to use visual aids or control an opposing witness without it sounding like you are interrupting them. Luckily, the national organization is beginning to bring back in-person tournaments, so hopefully next season will be completely in-person.”
Despite the added stresses of competing over Zoom, Carleton’s two teams performed well in the regional competition. Competing against schools such as Duke, Seton Hall and University of Indiana, one of the Carleton teams won the Spirit of the American Mock Trial Association Award, an honor presented to the team that “best embodies the ideals of civility, fair-play, and justice” at each tournament, determined by the American Mock Trial Association.
The second Carleton team’s competitive record allowed them to place into the next round of national competition—the Opening Round Championship Series—which will take place over spring break. Schlick expressed her satisfaction with the team’s performance: “We traditionally send one or two teams to ORCS every year, so we are happy to continue that streak, especially with a team of mostly first-year members.”
Looking toward the future of Carleton’s mock trial program, Schlick hopes to continue adapting competition to the challenges of COVID-19 and maintain the program’s competitive and welcoming legacy.
“Carleton mock trial has historically been a very competitive program, so we hope to continue that streak. Team culture is also incredibly important to us. We want to continue to create a welcoming and respectful environment where everyone can contribute to the team, take performance risks and form meaningful friendships with other mockers.”
Mock Trial will be holding auditions for next year’s program in the fall, and all students interested in exploring the law, public presentation, acting and/or and courtroom etiquette are encouraged to audition. Schlick said that “students who are interested can find us at the activity fair every fall and sign up for an audition slot. The auditions are supposed to be stress-free and a simple way for us to get to know you, so anyone who is interested should come out and give it a try in September!”