St. John’s Mock Trial Team finished another successful season after competing in the National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament and giving two–time defending champions NYU their only loss in a round.
The competition was held on February 11-13 at Lafeyette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania. St. John’s competed against many top schools, including local competition Columbia and Fordham.
The teams battled it out trying to get into the top eight in order to move on to the American Mock Trial Association Opening Round Championship, which is the last qualifying tournament before the championship. St. John’s did not make it into the top eight, but in the last round they were the only team to give NYU, the reigning champs, their only loss of the tournament.
Team member Gary Dunn was ranked the number one attorney in the tournament after receiving a perfect score for his performance.
The team, led by Dr. Bernard Helldorfer, has competed at nationals 16 times since it was started at St. John’s.
The team meets together twice a week for several hours on top of private coaching sessions every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., which amounts to more than ten hours a week of practice.
Helldorfer, who has been the director of Legal Studies for 24 years, started the team 19 years ago and has been involved since. Of this year’s team, he said he “couldn’t have asked for a better mix of people and it was really a pleasure to see it all come together.”
He expressed that their loss was not simply due to the team’s performance.
“It was a bad combination of things, kind of like the perfect storm; we just couldn’t get the right judges to see the case our way,” Helldorfer said.
He also said that it was an unfortunate tournament because he feels that this year’s team is one of the better teams he has had in the last nineteen years.
Mock Trial team’s are started for aspiring lawyers so they can practice what it is like to be in a courtroom. They host a “mock trial” where different members have different positions like playing an attorney or a witness. The members get first hand experience about what it is like to be a lawyer by learning how to speak, dress, and talk to different members of the court.
Member Tahir Boykins said that you really have to get into the role that playing the of the witness requires a lot of acting.
Of the ten members on the team, five of them were returning members and five of them are new to the team this year.
According to Boykins, one thing the team does plan to do differently next season is the acting of the witnesses. He said that when going against teams like NYU they really need to have more character in their witnesses and the members need to “become their role.”
Boykins described the team as “strong minded, [keeping the] best interest of the team at heart and selfless.”
Helldorfer praised the efforts of the Mock Trial team this year.
“Working with this team was really a pleasure; [they are a] nice group of students who represented the university community really well,” he said.