Baylor Law School places as quarterfinalist at National Trial Competition finals

Although the crime is fictitious and the attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and judges are acting, the courtroom drama at the annual National Trial Competition is very real to the law students navigating what will soon become an integral part of their careers.

The students, who play either the role of prosecuting attorney or defense attorney, have learned trial technique and strategy from their law school classes and have developed their skills through practice and training from professors and attorney coaches. This year’s National Trial Competition had more than 315 participating teams from 160-plus law schools competing in 14 regional tournaments across the country, with the top two teams from each region advancing to the national finals in Texas from March 11-15. Chicago-Kent College of Law took home first prize as the 2015 National Champion Team, while Baylor Law School placed as a quarterfinalist.

The national tournament, hosted by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers, seeks to prepare future attorneys to successfully complete a trial from beginning to end—an especially important endeavor considering the declining rates of jury trials and resulting decrease in numbers of attorneys with this essential experience.

“The National Trial Competition was established to encourage and strengthen law students’ advocacy skills through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar,” said Zeke Fortenberry, tournament chairman and a TYLA director. “The program is designed to expose law students to the nature of trial practice and to serve as a supplement to their education.”

This year, the National Trial Competition returned to Houston, the city where it began 40 years ago after being co-founded by TYLA and ACTL in 1975. Preliminary rounds, which had more than 200 volunteers taking on various roles, took place at the Harris County Civil Courthouse. Final rounds were held at the federal courthouse in Houston.

“The students are nervous because this mock trial tournament is unlike any other—we have random volunteers playing witnesses that competitors meet just 15 minutes before the round begins, so you never know what the witness will say on the stand,” said Fortenberry. “Also, the judges are fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers as well as local attorneys, so the students are excited to try a case in front of the distinguished attorneys.”

High school students prepare for state mock trial championship in March

On March 7 and 8, teams from 24 Texas high schools will compete at the 35th Annual Texas High School Mock Trial Competition in Dallas. These teams have made it to the final championship after winning regional contests among approximately 60 high schools during January and February, and are vying for the opportunity to represent the state at the national tournament in Madison, Wis. in May.



While the participating teenagers love the excitement of portraying prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses during a hypothetical civil case before a jury and judge, the competition’s organizers hope the event also will teach students about the inner workings of our justice system and provide them with an arena to think on their feet while presenting their arguments and/or testimonies.

The Dallas Bar Association has sponsored the statewide competition for more than three decades and awarded approximately $300,000 in scholarships. Dallas area attorneys and judges help with the program by serving as “jurors,” judges, mock trial clinic instructors, and advisers. They also write the mock case that is presented at the state competition each year. More information is available at

Santa Claus on trial, again

For the 20th-straight year, Santa Claus is facing “trial” as part of a community service project of the San Antonio Bar Association.

San Antonio police arrested Santa on Thursday as he was handing out gifts at James Bonham Academy. He is accused of violating a fictitious statute concerning the separation of church and state, said Ted Lee, a San Antonio attorney who helps organize the annual mock trial through the San Antonio Bar Association U.S. District Courts Committee.

“The goal is to have fun. It’s educational in a fun sense,” said Lee, adding that students also received a lesson on constitutional rights from Bexar County District Court Judge Michael Mery on Wednesday.

The trial is set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the John H. Wood Jr. U.S. Courthouse before Judge Edward C. Prado. Members of Boy Scout Troop 285 will make up both the prosecution and the defense teams, and fourth-graders from James Bonham Academy will serve as the jury.

A Christmas party will occur after the trial … assuming Santa is acquitted. The prosecution has yet to secure a conviction in the program’s history (it’s based on “Miracle on 34th Street”), but Lee said the lead prosecutor is feeling confident this time.

“He said Santa Claus is going down."

For more information about the program, call Lee at 210-886-9500.

Texarkana Young Lawyers Association presents mock trial to local area high school students

Members of the Mock Trial Team in front of the federal courthouse
in Texarkana.

On March 4, 2013, a crowd of spectators had the opportunity to watch mock trial proceedings of a civil suit at the federal courthouse. The mock trial was performed by Baylor Law School's American Association for Justice Mock Trial Team.

Local lawyers, high school teachers and an administrator, members of the community, courthouse staff, and 60 high school students were in attendance. The students represented Pleasant Grove High School, Texas High School, Liberty-Eylau High School, and Arkansas High School.

The presiding judge was Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant. A panel of judges and lawyers was at hand to deliver feedback: Chief Justice Josh Morriss, Justice Jack Carter, Justice Bailey Moseley, Judge Donald Dowd, Troy Hornsby, and Jason Horton. The day before the mock trial, the team had the opportunity to perform a practice session before Judge Ralph Burgess.

Texarkana attorney Justin B. Smith, who was in attendance, said the event was very successful. "The courtroom was packed with high school students, the Baylor team performed exceedingly well, and the panel of judges and lawyers gave great feedback."

Smith encourages other local affiliates to coordinate similar presentations. "High school students can get a lot out of it, and it puts the legal profession and young lawyers in a great light."