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Advocates return to Houston for the 11th Annual South Texas Mock Trial Challenges

Home Law School News Advocates return to Houston for the 11th Annual South Texas Mock Trial Challenges

The 11th annual South Texas Mock Trial Challenge attracted some of the nation’s most talented law students for a four-day competition in Houston — in an eagerly awaited return to an in-person format.

Teams from 39 schools competed in the March 24-27 competition, while more than 100 South Texas College of Law Houston students served as bailiffs, volunteers and fact witnesses. Last year, rather than cancel the tournament amid worldwide COVID-19 restrictions, STCL Houston held a successful virtual competition.

This competition was hosted by STCL Houston’s Advocacy Program, recognized as one of the country’s best and led by Rob Galloway, vice president for Advocacy and W. James Kronzer, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Advocacy, and president of the National Association of Legal Advocacy Educators. In the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools guide released in late March, the STCL Houston Trial Advocacy program ranked No. 3 in the nation.

South Texas students have won 136 national advocacy championships, twice as many as any other law school.

In the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge, advocates from law schools across the country faced all the demands of an actual jury trial. They presented opening statements, conducted direct and cross-examinations of expert and lay witnesses, and wrapped up with closing arguments. Along the way, competitors also argued objections based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. The rounds were held competition in the courtrooms Harris County Courthouse complex, where more than 200 alumni, practicing attorneys, and local judges volunteered their time to serve as competition judges.

Further exploring the legal questions presented in the 2021 tournament, this year’s Mock Trial Challenge problem focused on the issues of damages. It asked advocates to argue in the second phase of a trial that previously found liability based on the negligent transmission of the measles virus.

In the competition case, the child who contracted measles was now susceptible to developing a fatal, progressive neurological disease. The jury had to decide what damages the plaintiffs could recover. The trial court, in the competition scenario, had asked for guidance on what categories of damages were available under the circumstances.

“This tournament represents one of the few opportunities these students will have to put their legal skills to the test in a courtroom,” said Dominique N. Hinson, director, Appellate Advocacy, South Texas College of Law Houston. “The skills needed for the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge are the same skills graduates will take into their first trial as an attorney, so feedback from experienced litigators is invaluable.”

The STCL Houston event offers unique components designed to add to its realism. Students must write a trial brief as part of the competition, which is uncommon but reflects the law school’s emphasis on legal research and writing. Also, South Texas students serve as witnesses to recreate the unpredictability of a trial.

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