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Law School News

STCL Houston Hosts Successful 10th Annual South Texas Mock Trial Challenge

South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) recently hosted the successful 10th Annual South Texas Mock Trial Challenge, drawing top student advocates from 36 law schools across the United States.

Considered one of the most prestigious advocacy competitions in the nation, the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge enables STCL Houston’s Advocacy program — ranked No. 1 in the country for “Best Schools for Moot Court” by preLaw Magazine — to shine on a national advocacy stage.

As the largest invitational trial competition in the U.S., the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge attracts the very best law student advocates, many of whom have competed at other national tournaments this spring.

Third-year law students Amelia Welch Ortiz, Charles Hoffman, and Ian Kecskes, and second-year law student Haley Kairab from the University of Georgia School of Law (UGA Law) took home the championship after besting a team from the University of California Los Angeles School of Law in the final round. Notably, the winning team went undefeated through seven rounds of competition — and UGA Law advocates have won this competition four times in the tournament’s history.

In this year’s Challenge, the student advocates represented fictitious clients following a measles outbreak. The problem presented to tournament participants involved unvaccinated children of two sets of parents who were exposed to the disease at a day care. The students were challenged to argue over whether, and to what extent, the parents and the day care were responsible.

“Since 2012, the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge has provided one of the nation’s best opportunities to test the resiliency of future litigators with a complex case file and great competition,” said Robert Galloway, STCL Houston associate director of Advocacy. “We decided to host an online tournament because the new normal for lawyers will include arguing virtual, as well as in-person, hearings. We want to stay at the forefront of training the next generation of lawyers on how to effectively represent clients in both settings.”

Kairab of UGA Law won Best Advocate in the final round, while Best Advocate in the preliminary rounds was awarded to Naomi Alexander of Howard University School of Law. The Most Professional Advocate Award — typically given to an individual advocate — instead was awarded to Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law’s entire mock trial team, including Jay Douglas, Allison Hanby, Jayme Leadmond, McKenzie Meade, and their coach, Setara Foster. A team from the University of California Berkeley School of Law won the top prize for submitting the best trial brief.

South Texas College of Law Houston President and Dean Michael F. Barry said, “Congratulations to Robert Galloway, associate director of Advocacy; B.K. Covington, Advocacy coordinator; and the entire Advocacy team at STCL Houston — including our dedicated faculty, students, staff, and alumni judges and contributors — who made this year’s South Texas Mock Trial Challenge such a positive experience for the competitors.”

STCL Houston utilized the Challenge’s online format to attract students and alumni from across the state. Student Allison Dawson, who attends South Texas classes remotely from her home in East Texas, participated as a witness and used the Zoom platform to confer with her team without leaving her home. And STCL Houston alumna Jennifer Falk ’06, an assistant district attorney in Dallas, judged the competition from her office. Falk — who won a national mock trial challenge for STCL Houston as a student in 2006 — described this year’s tournament as “fantastic.”

The Challenge united the STCL Houston Advocacy community, with more than 200 alumni judging the rounds and 94 students serving as witnesses, technicians, and organizers. “The long hours and Zoom lags were well worth it,” said Trent Cooper, third-year law student and chairman of the STCL Houston Student Board of Advocates. “During a global pandemic, it is so simple to take the easy way out and quit, but South Texas showed the rest of the country what resilience looks like.”

This successful tournament adds another feather in the cap of the Advocacy program at STCL Houston, one of only three law schools in the country consistently ranked in the Top 10 for trial advocacy by U.S. News & World Report. In the last month alone, STCL Houston student advocates won the law school’s unrivaled 134th and 135th national advocacy championships — twice as many titles as any other law school in the nation.