Mock Trial Returns to In-Person Competition

Three photos show students in facemasks, two holding award placques and the others seated at desks.
At left, Cierra King and Caylie McAree hold their Outstanding Witness awards during the Capital Region Clash Mock Trial Invitational last month. At right are Billy Swindler, Yidi Sprei and Andrew Ong-Garcia (top) and King, Philip Walsh and Mina Gul.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 14, 2021) — UAlbany’s Mock Trial Invitational returned to campus in person last month, after going virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third annual Capital Region Clash Mock Trial Invitational, a collaboration with Albany Law School, was held on campus over the weekend of Nov. 20-21. Fourteen mock trial teams from around the Northeast gathered in the Massry Center for Business.

Jeanette Altarriba, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and board member of the Albany Law Affiliation Implementation Team, welcomed participants at the Opening Ceremony. “The University at Albany is proud to host this event in preparation for the teams’ next level of competition,” Altarriba said. “The Capital Region Clash Invitational provides unique opportunities for our students to hone their trial skills, practice their knowledge of the processes involved in the legal system, and interact with other students from schools across the Northeast.”

For two days, students went toe-to-toe in four rounds of competitive trials, displaying their prowess in the courtroom. They utilized materials from the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), which provides alternating criminal and civil cases that take place in the fictional state of Midlands. This year, teams were given a criminal case that centered around the death of a firefighter and a charge of aggravated arson against the defendant.

In teams of 10, students took on the roles of lawyers and witnesses for prosecution and for defense. The lawyers begin with opening statements, proceed with direct and cross examinations of witnesses, and finish with closing arguments.

“Although these competitors are not in law school yet, I could easily see them in the courtroom,” said Louis Jim, assistant professor of law at Albany Law School and faculty collaborator. “The Albany Law School community is proud to be a part of the invitational, and many of our law students enjoy serving as judges.”

Among the 14 teams competing at the Capital Region Clash was UAlbany Mock Trial’s B Team. “Last year, it was hard to compete online when my team was not physically next to me to cheer me on,” said co-team captain and sophomore Caylie McAree. “Being in person and having my team next to me was great motivation to perform better and put my all into my testimony.”

McAree and junior Cierra King were both named Outstanding Witness at the tournament, a distinction based on judges’ scores of attorneys’ and witnesses’ performances.

Andrew Ong Garcia, a freshman attorney on B team, agreed that the experience of competing is exhilarating and confidence building. “That feeling of anxiety before each round... I think it’s the good kind of stress that makes participating in mock trial so much fun,” said Garcia. “Being able to test our trial skills against high-ranking schools on the mock trial circuit like Princeton and Penn State was definitely a welcomed challenge.”

“Every member on the Mock Trial B team had an impact on its success, which is largely due to collaboration and teamwork,” said Marcie Newton, a faculty member in the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry and UAlbany Mock Trial’s faculty advisor and coach. “There is a strong sense of community on this team that fosters confidence and camaraderie.”

UAlbany Mock Trial’s A Team hosted and ran the tournament. A collaborative, professional effort from the team’s seasoned members ensured that the invitational ran like clockwork after a year of Zoom tournaments.

“I was extremely impressed with the collaborative effort by everyone involved in running the tournament,” said senior Divya Tulsiani, president of UAlbany Mock Trial and A team co-captain. “Everyone was willing to help and made such a personal investment in ensuring the weekend went smoothly, which was heartwarming. The success of the invitational is a testament to all the hard work the members of Mock Trial put in throughout the season, coupled with the fantastic leadership from our tournament director.”

Tournament Director Kristin Gribbon, a senior, was at the forefront of arranging the weekend. “Getting back to competing in person has been a major goal of our organization, and it was really nice to see familiar faces and create new relationships with other mock trial organizations around the Northeast,” she said. “Competitors and coaches alike remarked on how smoothly the event was run and how much fun they had.”

The event was sponsored by the University at Albany, Albany Law School, UAlbany Alumni Association and the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry.