Intercollegiate Mock Trial club advances to semifinals

Cal Poly Pomona’s very own Intercollegiate Mock Trial club’s A-Team received second honorable mention, placing eighth overall, against 21 other schools in a regional competition held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at Claremont McKenna College.

The top six teams to place get to advance to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), otherwise known as the semifinals in the national competition. Additionally, since the team competed against considerably tough teams, they ranked third highest in combined strength along with members consistently placing high on student attorney scoring.

“We had pretty tough competition all weekend,” said Chase Gleason, a second-year transfer political science student. Other competitors included teams from UC Santa Barbara, Claremont McKenna and Pomona College. 

CPP Mock Trial President Emma Jue-Sans, left, receives a witness award at the AMTA Regional Tournament at Claremont McKenna College.
Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post

The Mock Trial team is essentially a club in which members simulate court cases and compete with other schools. Members play roles of both witnesses and attorneys along with building strong cases for their prosecution and defense in order to win against other colleges and clubs. 

Every summer, the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) releases a case packet for its members to study that is used in its competitions. The packet provides competitors with rules and conditions, witness statements, fact patterns, along with other case details and necessary materials. CPP’s team studied and worked on the packet as soon as it was released.

To prepare for regionals, the team practiced three times a week and then shifted gears to practice every day for the two weeks leading up to the Claremont tournament. The team’s typical study habits included learning the rules of evidence as well as practicing objections at the start of the year. 

Objections are based off the rules of evidence, which are nearly identical to the federal rules of evidence, which regulate what evidence is permissible in court. The club eventually moves toward actual scrimmages where members actively compete against each other. 

The club also competed in invitational tournaments against other schools to further develop its skills and test out its theories. Outside of the Claremont regional tournament, the club competed in four invitationals at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA. 

While the club is open to all majors, members predominantly study political science. According to club president and fourth-year political science student Emma Jue-Sans, the focus of the club includes critical thinking, advocacy and argument, public speaking and knowledge of the law. “(Trials) are half preparation and half improv,” said Jue-Sans, adding that the difficult part of trials is “thinking on your feet and having to make changes in the heat of the moment.” 

“This was the first year (the club) was student-led on the administrative side,” Jue-Sans said. “We had a couple of hurdles with just running the team. It was also the first year we had tryouts rather than pulling people from class. I really liked that we were pretty self-sufficient.” 

In years past, the club scouted students who had taken the political science mock trial class and were interested or did well according to the professor. However, due to the conflict of schedules and the fact that there was only one open section during the fall semester, there were a limited number of students to bring into the club. 

This year, tryouts were a way to open up admissions to more people.

According to Gleason, running the club and competing is a full-time job. This was also the first year the club was coached by Riverside Judge John Molloy. 

“I think we did slightly better than last year where we got to the playoffs,” third-year environmental biology student Manshaan Singh said. “I’m excited to go to ORCS. Let’s show them what we can do.”

According to Jue-Sans, the club falls under the label of “consistently underrated teams on the West Coast” by other teams and judges. After trials, judges consistently say the competitors are better than practicing attorneys they’ve met. “We fly under the radar, and it’s fun when people realize (we’re) pretty good,” Gleason said.

“Since we lost the ballots on such slim margins, we need to amp it up a little more,” said Victoria Venegas, a second-year political science student and vice president of the club. However, the club is hopeful and confident that it will advance to the ORCS semifinals. 

Aside from the ORCS semifinals, the CPP Mock Trial club doesn’t have any other competitions or scrimmages planned for the rest of the semester unless it qualifies to advance to AMTA nationals. A Mock Trial information session will be hosted near the end of the semester to hopefully expand the club and add new members for next year. 

“The club is a great opportunity and you get to meet attorneys and judges. It’s great exposure if you want to be an attorney,” Venegas said. 

More information about the club can be found on the website cppmocktrial.com, or on its Instagram @cppmocktrial.

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