By Lauren La Marca
“Order! Order!” These are two words you would usually hear being shouted by the judge over a noisy court room. For the Mock Trial Club here at Siena, it’s assumed these words are heard much more often. The Mock Trial Club is a group that receives fictitious cases from the American Mock Trial Association every year. Within the year, they are given a binder filled with statements from witnesses, a summary of what exactly went on in the case, and other evidence. The job of the participants in Mock Trial is to use what they receive in order to prepare the case in front of judges, and compete against other Mock Trial teams from other schools. They do this as if they were real lawyers and witnesses at an actual trial.
In the Mock Trial Club, there are ten competing members and 3 coaches, comprised of Eric Scalzo (captain), Javid Afzali, Michael DiSiena, Danita Williams, Mike Ellement (co-captain), Aubrey Roman, Christine Martin, Judge James King (coach), Roman Griffith, Julia Steciuk, Jill Wojdyla, Sonya Smelyansky (alumni and coach), and Dr. Leonard Cutler (Advisor, coach, pre-law advisor). Anyone is able to participate in Mock Trial. At the club meetings members review multiple trial principles and techniques and the application of legal theories.
This year, the Mock Trial Club competed in the regional competition at Syracuse University in February, where they excelled to the championship round to face Cornell. There are 4 rounds, and each round has 2 judges that score based on professionalism, knowledge of the case and rules, character, presence, etc. In the last round Siena barely lost to Cornell, but ended up with a 5-3 record giving them 5th place overall and securing a spot at the National Silver Tournament. Captain of the team, Eric Scalzo, was given an award of special recognition, earning one of the Outstanding Attorney awards. The team also won the Spirit of AMTA award, which is voted on by the other teams and goes the team with the best attitude, best ethics, and displays the best spirit of trial work.
Unfortunately, the team was supposed to be competing at Nationals in Ohio, but because of a severe snow storm was unable to land and got diverted to Chicago. They missed the tournament in Ohio, but thanks to the diligent work of the captains and advisors, were offered a spot at the National tournament in Tucson, Arizona during March 14-16. The generosity of Dr. Linda Richardson and Father Kevin Mullen allowed the team to be able to compete this year.
There were only 3 spots to the National Gold round. Siena ended up facing 2 of the 3 teams that ranked, and did well. The nature of the national tournament is extremely difficult and competitive, but Siena held their own. The team received second place (honorable mention) for the Spirit of AMTA award, again showing their positive attitudes and professional demeanor. Siena faced rival team Columbia University and managed to split Columbia’s record and keep them from advancing any further in the tournament.