The Cornell Mock Trial team smiles after two of its teams qualified for nationals and ranked among the top six teams at the qualifying tournament last weekend.

Courtesy of Danny Shokry '21

The Cornell Mock Trial team smiles after two of its teams qualified for nationals and ranked among the top six teams at the qualifying tournament last weekend.

March 29, 2018

Two Mock Trial Teams Qualify for Nationals, Ranking Among Top 48 Teams in Country

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Two Cornell Mock Trial Association teams will compete at the national tournament in Minneapolis from April 19 to April 22.

The Mock Trial Association competes against other universities through the American Mock Trial Association, the governing body of collegiate mock trial. The national association provides a fictional court case to over 700 schools across the nation annually, according to Steven Torres ’19, vice president of mock trial.

This year, Cornell’s top two A and B teams qualified for nationals — “the most prestigious tournament of the year,” according to James Pinchak ’18, the president of mock trial.

“Going to nationals is a pretty big accomplishment for any school,” Torres said. “To put it in context, over 700 schools participated in regional tournaments this year, 192 of which managed to make it to the national qualifiers, where 48 of them performed well enough to earn a ‘bid’ to the national tournament in Minneapolis.”

In the final qualifying tournament, both teams placed in the top six, according to Pinchak.

Torres said that this will mark the sixth year in a row that Cornell’s A team will compete in the national championship.

“Very few teams make it to nationals, and even fewer teams can do it consistently,” he said.

This achievement “places Cornell in the ranks of the most accomplished mock trial programs in the country,” Torres added.

The team has now qualified two separate teams for the second time in three years, which is “a very rare feat which should be credited to our awesome captains, coach, and teammates,” according to Pinchak.

At nationals, each team competes four times — twice as defense and twice as prosecution — against a different university every time, Pinchak said. He also said that the national championship will feature a case about “a bank robbery where the defendant is being charged as the ‘inside man.’”

“The road ahead is pretty challenging,” Torres said, explaining that this new case is completely different from the case about attempted murder that the team has been arguing all year.

Despite this, the team is “up to the challenge,” Torres said.

“We just have to keep our eye on the ball and practice as much as our GPAs will tolerate,” Pinchak said.

Torres stressed the importance of practicing for the tournament and added that team attorneys spend “hours of practicing statements, cross examinations, memorizing case law and arguing objections under the rules of evidence,” while witnesses “[build] their characters and [memorize] the fact patterns of what their witnesses know.”

According to Pinchak, most of the team members joined mock trial because they “did it in high school or got quarter-carded outside of RPCC as freshmen.”

However, “once they’re on the team they become a part of this strange little family,” Torres said.

“We are an odd bunch of friends from wildly different backgrounds who all share an intense passion for arguing fake cases about fake people,” Torres said.

And like any family, they will drive to the airport at 6 a.m. in April to compete at nationals, Pinchak said.