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UCLA Mock Trial team’s multiple tournament wins stand testament to group’s strength

By Parisa Mahdad

Nov. 10, 2009 12:23 a.m.

UCLA’s Mock Trial team battled for first and third place in Pittsburgh and Kentucky invitationals, respectively, this past weekend.

The two tournaments mark the team’s second round of traveling victories after a first-place win in Arizona two weeks ago.

One team headed by Jordan Joske, a third-year psychology student, and Josh Maynard, a fourth-year philosophy student, left Thursday night for an invitational tournament hosted at the University of Pittsburgh. The tournament ended on Sunday, as the team took the first-place trophy with seven wins and one loss.

The team played four rounds that were scored by two judges. UCLA managed to defeat Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia.

“A team effort brought us the win; nobody pulled more weight than any other person,” said Elise Landau, a fourth-year psychology student and a witness in the Pittsburgh tournament. “It was our remarkable cohesiveness and positive attitude through the whole weekend that allowed us to impress not only competitors but ourselves as well.”

Another UCLA mock trial team traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, where they won third place with a score of five wins, two losses and one tie at the invitational hosted by Bellarmine University. They competed against the University of Richmond, Rhodes University, the University of Iowa and Furman University, according to Michael Kelso, a fourth-year history and international development studies student and one of the attorneys for his team.

This was not only a nice aftertaste to the team’s first-place victory in Arizona two weeks ago, with a score of six wins and two losses, but it will provide further momentum for the two teams competing at the UC Irvine’s Beach Party Invitational this weekend, Kelso added.

Twenty to 25 collegiate teams from throughout the country compete in these invitational tournaments. UCLA has its own invitational tournament the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, and the public is encouraged to watch.

Consisting of 48 members, the UCLA Mock Trial team is an activity sponsored by the Undergraduate Accounting Program of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, according to Gonzalo Freixes, the head Mock Trial coach at UCLA and the associate dean for the Fully Employed MBA and Executive MBA Programs..

During fall quarter, returning members are divided into temporary teams to compete at invitationals such as those in Pittsburgh and Kentucky.

It is not until winter quarter that permanent teams for the year are “stacked,” or formed with both new and returning members of UCLA’s entire mock trial team.

These newly formed teams are based on talent level and generally consist of two junior varsity and two varsity teams, according Freixes.

“Mock trial is fake court. It’s a simulated trial. We prepare a case and perform the case against the other side,” Joske said.

Members are not only required to write, memorize and present their own material, but they must also memorize a federal evidence code, Joske said.

“(Other teams) are allowed to break the rules, and if you don’t catch them, then it gets in. So it’s your job to make sure they don’t break the rules,” said Andrej Selivra, a fifth-year political science student.

Selivra added that the amount of work is extensive but that it is necessary in order to be successful in competitions.

“Even though it’s pretend court, it’s real-world experience,” said Jake Perkowski, a third-year English student.

Throughout the year, the team works arduously to perfect one case. This year’s case, State of Midlands vs. Jackie Owens, is a criminal case and was released during the summer. Every year, the case alternates between a criminal and a civil case. A typical mock trial consists of attorneys and witnesses who perform opening and closing statements, direct examinations and cross-examinations, according to Joske.

“The biggest thing about fall is keeping everyone motivated because it is really early, and everything is very overwhelming,” Maynard said.

While UCLA is on the quarter system and starts school in late September, semester schools have had since mid-August to prepare and practice the case and compete in invitationals, Maynard added.

“I would say our biggest challenge (is) we really want to win the National Championship, and there are some really competitive teams out there. … We’re going do everything we can to put in the most prep we ever have put in and give it a solid shot at Nationals in April,” said Stephen Mayer, a third-year English student and senior captain of UCLA’s Mock Trial team.

The 2010 National Championship is not only looming in the minds of student members but is also a priority for the coaches, who know the capabilities of their teams.

“In the 10 years I’ve been with the program, we’ve placed in the top 10 of nationals six of those 10 years, won the National Championship twice, and on at least three occasions, we placed both our varsity teams in the top 10 of the National Championship,” Freixes said.

Considering the victorious history of UCLA Mock Trial, the team’s future in regional, super-regional, and national championship competitions throughout the winter and spring quarters should only improve, considering the impressive ranking of the UCLA team as of now, Mayer said.

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Parisa Mahdad
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