Syracuse University undergraduate mock trial team wins national competition
Syracuse University undergraduate mock trial team wins national competitionMarch 24, 2001Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s mock trial team returned home from the Silver Flight National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament last weekend with a first-place trophy for its division and the championship trophy. The tournament, which consisted of four rounds of competition and a championship round, was held March 16 to 18 at the Ramsey County Courthouse and on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. The team is now preparing for the Gold Flight National Championship to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, March 30 to April 1. In addition to team honors, Meghan Bashaar, a junior political science major who is enrolled in the Accelerated Liberal Arts Law Program, received All-American honors for her performance as an attorney. Freshman political science major Nita Narayan received All-American honors for her performance as a witness. The team also includes seniors Dmitry Bam, a psychology and political philosophy major, and Erin Jolley, a speech communications and political science major who is team president; juniors Dave Burmaster, a political science and public policy major, and Joyce George, a political science and policy studies major; sophomore Iman Abraham, a political science and policy studies major; and freshman Elizabeth McElroy, a public policy and philosophy major. Coaches are local attorney Kevin Kuehner LAW ’99; Jean Marie Westlake, a third-year law student and member of the College of Law’s National Trial Team; and Adam Detsky, a second-year law student. Teams qualified to compete at the national competition by finishing at the top of their field in each of 17 regional tournaments held throughout the country. In all, more than 393 teams from 36 states and the District of Columbia were registered to compete at the regional level of intercollegiate competition this year. Fifty top teams were invited to this year’s Silver Flight National Tournament. SU won in a field that included teams from Yale and Columbia universities and the University of California, Berkeley. The SU team defeated a Dartmouth College team in the championship round. “This year’s National Mock Trial Tournament will go down as one of the most successful ever,” says Faith O’Reilly, tournament director. “Each year the teams seem to get better and better, and this year was certainly no exception.”
Mock trial teams consist of six to eight students who take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a simulated court case. This year, the teams prepared for a trial stemming from a lawsuit filed in the death of P.J. Gilbertson, an amateur mountain climber, who was killed while attempting to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest. Gilbertson had hired a professional climbing service to guide him up the mountain. His estate claimed that his guides were negligent in failing to monitor the weather conditions and in failing to get him safely off of the mountain as a storm was approaching. The defendant, Everest Experience Expeditions, countered that Gilbertson knew how dangerous the climb would be and assumed the risk, thereby making him responsible for his own death. Students argued both sides of the case. The SU team is sponsored by The College of Arts and Sciences and is funded by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Innovative Learning (CURIL). Students who participate on the team also take a four-credit course on trial advocacy skills.