Tom Jacob Named Newest Baylor Law 'Top Gun'

  • News Photo 4625
    Runner-up Joel Bailey watches Top Gun winner Tom Jacob, as he cross-examines a witness.
  • News Photo 4626
    Legendary Baylor Law Professor Matt Dawson, for whom the "Mad Dog" is named, helped judge the competition.
Dec. 16, 2008

Contact: Julie Carlson, Baylor Law School, (254) 710-6681

Baylor Law student Tom Jacob took home the "Mad Dog," when he was named winner of Baylor Law School's Bob and Karen Wortham "Top Gun" mini-trial competition.

Jacob battled with Joel Bailey for three hours on Dec. 8 to win the coveted trophy and the title of the top Baylor Law student trial advocate. Jacob and Bailey were teammates on the Baylor mock trial team that recently captured first place at the ninth annual National Trial Advocacy Competition

As winner of the Wortham competition, Jacob will receive $3,000 in addition to the 18-inch bronze statuette of Matt "Mad Dog" Dawson, the legendary Baylor Law professor who started the tradition of mini-trial competitions during his tenure as director of Baylor Law's Practice Court Program. As runner up, Bailey received $1,000. Semifinalists Eric Policastro and Kaye Johnson each received $500.

"The competition was no easy task for sure," Jacob said. "Everyone was amazing, definitely a great reflection on how well Practice Court creates advocates."

Jacob tried four rounds during the tournament. Participants in the preliminary rounds and semifinals tried a case modeled after the Michael Vick dog-fighting case. Before the semifinals, Jacob and Bailey found out that if they made the finals, any weekend plans they had would be put on hold.

"After the semi-finalists were announced, [Professor Gerald] Powell recognized us in class," Jacob said. "Then he told the class a story about how one day, we'll go to work and our senior partner will hand us a case file and tell us to go try a case that was set for the afternoon. In an effort to simulate that, he told us that he would be giving the winners of the semi-finals a brand new case to try."

Jacob and Bailey only had had two days to prepare for an entire trial, something never before done in the Top Gun program.

"Suffice it to say, the weekend was miserable and I did not understand the definition of tired until the round was finished Monday afternoon," said Jacob, who remarked that he went home and collapsed in bed. "But it was completely worth it and I couldn't imagine having done it any other way."

In the finals, Jacob and Bailey tried a fictional civil case that centered on whether a hotel was negligent because a hotel guest was shot and killed in its parking lot. The case is the new American Association of Justice competition case for spring 2009 and was just released last week. Jacob represented the defense.

Judges were Jim Wren, assistant professor and Practice Court I instructor; David Cherry, adjunct professor and Waco attorney; and Dawson. Gerald Powell, director of the Practice Court Program and The Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence Law, presided as judge.

"This was an excellent round," Wren said. "The trial was a testament to Tom's and Joel's ability and confidence to prepare and execute at a very high level under tremendous time pressure. That confidence will serve them well in the years to come."

Powell concurred. "They exemplified the true Baylor lawyer by doing a superb job of trying a hard case on extremely short notice," he said.

Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben expressed his appreciation to the Honorable Bob and Karen Wortham for sponsoring the intrascholastic competition. Wortham, who was elected district judge in November 2006, worked as an attorney with the Beaumont law firm of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, L.L.P. He previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas; sat as a State District Judge; and worked at the District Attorney's Office, Jefferson County. In 1993, he received the Department of Justice Award for Outstanding Service. The couple's son, Baylor, also is an alumnus of the school and, following in his father's footsteps, works at the District Attorney's Office in Jefferson County.

"Judge Bob and Karen Wortham are such ardent supporters of our school and cheerleaders for our students. This competition is made possible by them and honors a genuine icon in the trial bar, Matt Dawson," Toben said.

Tom Jacob was born in India but moved to the Dallas area at age 5. He received his bachelor's degree in government from the University of Texas. Next year, after he receives his law degree, Jacob will work for Judge William L. Garwood on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Bailey is a native of Cleburne, Texas, and received his bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University.

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