Each year, 16 Duhawks go to court as part of the Loras College Mock Trial program, a unique branch of intercollegiate academic competition that requires quick thinking, confidence and a little creativity.
As part of the American Mock Trial Association, the Duhawks traveled to Cedar Rapids for their regional tournament the weekend of Feb. 17 and 18. Schools of all sizes competed against one another at random draw, making for a competitive meet.
The program was split into A and B teams, and while neither team will be advancing, they did take first and second for the Spirit of the AMTA award which honors civility, justice and fair play in conjunction with outgoingness and friendliness.
“We may not have won, but at least we’re nice people,” said junior Cole Hansen with a smile.
In addition to competing in this regional competition as well as various others throughout the year, DuMockers practice three times a week, which allows them to get into the details of the year’s case and fine-tune their characters.
Beginning a week before classes started back in August, DuMockers were sent to “boot camp,” where they learned the basics of court proceedings, the finer details of the case they’d be working with for the year, and what roles would be most suitable for each person.
“You really worked on building your character,” said junior Thomas Ball.
In Mock Trial, six roles are doled out per team: three witnesses and three attorneys. While each assignment comes with its own profile containing anything from explicit evidence to reports to affidavits to interrogations to expert reports, there is a degree of creativity that goes into portraying each individual character.
“If (someone) is given an affidavit … (they) have to stick to that knowledge, but what is done with the character outside is completely up to (that person),” said “attorney” Hansen. “It’s definitely more performance-based for witnesses and more knowledge based for attorneys.”
Individual performance is hugged as the competition is scored for every section of the trial right down to who is speaking. That being said though, there is a degree of teamwork that must be present in order to portray a convincing prosecution or defense.
“For it to be a good trial,” said Johnson, “you can’t be doing own thing. Your character has to somehow connect with another character; you’re telling a story and you’re a puzzle piece that needs to fit in.”
“You’ll have disagreements and issues but you have to come together and think fast and critically to come up with solutions to objections or issues that may come up in cross-examination. So it’s a lot of thinking on your feet,” said Hansen.
So yes, while students are in a courtroom acting out a trial, there’s a lot more that goes into a competitive performance than just being fluent in legal jargon. Even then, an interest in the law and legal system isn’t necessary to be a part of Mock Trial.
“That’s the thing about Mock Trial; you don’t necessarily want to go into law to be part of Mock Trial,” said Johnson.
Though the official season is over, the DuMockers are having an in-house “scrimmage” later this month for anyone who might be interested.