Mock Trial Team Advances to National Championship

Members of Hamilton's Mock Trial team at ORCS.
Members of Hamilton's Mock Trial team at ORCS.

On the eve of its 10th anniversary, the Hamilton College Mock Trial team finished third in the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) on March 23-25, and qualified for the national championship tournament in April. Team captain Tyler Roberts ’12 won an Outstanding Attorney award and Patrick Bedard ’14 won an Outstanding Witness award.


Hamilton’s team qualified for ORCS by placing in the top six at the Buffalo Regional Competition in early March. The National Championship Tournament will take place April 13-15 at Hamline University in Minnesota. With their performance at ORCS, the Hamilton Mock Trial team distinguished itself as among the top 48 mock trial programs in the country out of the 654 that competed this year.


Hamilton’s 3rd place finish marks the first time the team has advanced beyond the ORCS tournament in the program’s 10-year history. The Mock Trial team most recently made it to ORCS in 2010, but failed to qualify for the National Championship Tournament. Roberts said that he learned a lot from the defeat at ORCS two years ago and that the experience helped him tremendously in this year’s tournament.  


Mock Trial was founded at Hamilton in 2002 by Alex Kaufman ’06 and Adam Gordon ’06.


Team members include seniors Tyler Roberts and Julia Goldstein; juniors Libby Gutschenritter and Emily Tompsett; members of the class of 2014 Jason Driscoll, Pat Bedard and Katherine Stein; and first-year students Maggie McGuire and Ian Carradine.


Other members of the team who did not compete at this tournament are Sabrina Yurkofsky ’15, Marta Johnson ’13, Anna Flores’14, Elly Field ’13 and Ian Thresher ’12.

The case this year is a criminal case that involves a person who allegedly got into a fatal car accident while under the influence of alcohol. Each school fields a prosecution side and a defense side that must come up with a case theory and use previous cases to make informed arguments about why the defendant should or should not be found guilty. The case this year is particularly tough because it forces participants to argue issues relating to intent, recklessness and culpability.


In order to prepare for ORCS, several members of the team returned to Hamilton a few days before the tournament in order to work out some of the kinks and put the finishing touches on their arguments. The team also endured a fairly grueling tournament schedule this past year, taking part in three tournaments over three weeks during the first semester before competing in the prestigious Cornell Mock Trial Invitational, which features some of the country’s best teams, just two weeks after getting back from winter break. All of these tournaments helped prepare them for their biggest challenge: advancing to the National Tournament.


At ORCS, Roberts said that the Hamilton team’s success really came down to the little things. All of the teams who make it to ORCS are strong, he said, so the teams that win trials are “the teams that do the little things right. In practice we constantly tried to find little things to improve on and they added up this past weekend.”


Hamilton’s success is even more impressive considering the college’s small size. Roberts said, “Some of the larger schools have big structural advantages over us. They often have a larger student body to draw from, an attached law school that provides expertise, and coaches to train team members. For a school of our size to hold our own against those bigger schools is a big accomplishment. Looking ahead to Nationals, I’m excited to go compete against the best of the best and to see how strong we can be.”


When asked about his thoughts going forward, Roberts replied “Nobody expects us to do much at the National Championship Tournament, but they didn’t expect that at the Opening Round Championship Series either. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people in April.”

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