Tatiana Terry of Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law was declared the winner of “Top Gun X,” Baylor Law’s special tenth anniversary edition of the Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition. Terry persuaded an all-star jury of experienced trial attorneys and former Top Gun champions to return a verdict in her favor in the intense final round, narrowly beating out runner-up Craig Shirley of Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. In addition to bragging rights as ‘Top Gun,’ Terry takes home the grand prize of $10,000.
“This competition is tremendous… there’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into this moment. I’ve been wishing it, hoping it, praying about it for two years,” stated the 2019 Top Gun Tatiana Terry, who attended Baylor Law’s Academy of the Advocate in St Andrews Scotland in 2018. “I’ve always envisioned myself as a trial lawyer and this competition is made for people like me.”
Celebrating its tenth year, Baylor Law’s Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is the most challenging invitation-only mock trial tournament in the country. The best advocates from the nation's top sixteen trial advocacy schools compete head-to-head in the winner-take-all tournament.As the host, Baylor Law School does not compete. As part of the special “Top Gun X,” this year’s tenth-year anniversary event, Baylor Law worked with Baylor University Museum Studies Graduate Students on “An Exhibit of Exhibits” - museum-quality displays of important facts, photos, and exhibits of each of the previous nine competitions.
“We started Top Gun in 2010 to be an exceptional competition that uniquely challenges the most successful mock trial competitors in the country,” said Gerald Powell, Master Teacher and The Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence at Baylor Law. "Top Gun gives law student advocates a chance to not only compete against the very best and most talented of their peers," continued Powell. “But thanks to our great friends at Naman, Howell Smith & Lee, the Top Gun, the best advocate at the competition will also leave with a $10,000 prize.”
The Top Gun competition distinguishes itself from other mock trials with its innovative rules and challenging surprise changes and additions over the course of the competition. Unlike most mock trial competitions, participants cannot prepare for the case prior to the start of the competition. Upon arriving at Baylor Law, the advocates are given a brief video introduction, a case file, and only 24 hours to prepare both sides of the case before the first rounds begin. Case packets contain carefully prepared depositions, records, photographs, and videos. Witnesses are played by Baylor Law students, faculty, and friends, and the competitors have only a short period of time to prepare them for each round.
The presiding judges in the semi-final round of the competition were Magistrate Judge Christine A. Nowak of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas and Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The presiding judge in the final round was the honorable Barbara M.G. Lynn, Chief Judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
This year’s fictitious case, with facts created by faculty and staff at Baylor Law and faculty from Baylor University’s School of Engineering, was titled SARAH GWYNETH DAY, Plaintiff v. AMERICAN TRIATHLON ASSOCIATION, INC. AND TEIXEIRA CYCLING CORPORATION, Defendants.
Sarah Day, expertly played by Baylor Law’s Dean Leah Teague, filed a products liability suit against Teixeira Cycling Corporation and American Triathlon Association, Inc. Ms. Day was a competitive triathlete. While competing in the Doris Miller Memorial Xtremis Triathlon in Waco, Texas, Day successfully completed the swimming and running portions. However, she was injured shortly after beginning the biking portion, the final portion of the triathlon. Day alleged that Teixeira defectively designed, manufactured, and sold the bike she used for the triathlon. Specifically, she alleged that the use of an open fork design on her bike was defective and that this defective design caused her to fall from the bike and sustain serious injuries. Teixeira asserted that Sarah Day’s accident was caused by her own negligence and the negligent course design of the American Triathlon Association (ATA). ATA and Sarah Day settled out of court. In the final round, on Sunday, June 9th, Tatiana Terry of Campbell Law School represented the plaintiff, Sarah Day, and Craig Shirley of Cumberland Law represented the defendant, Teixeira Cycling Corp.
Another unique aspect of the Top Gun Competition is the use of real-world partners and contributors in the case. In this year’s fictitious case, Clinical Associate Professor at Baylor University’s School of Engineering, and experienced mechanical engineer, Joe Donndelinger, utilized his extensive design experience to create a realistic engineering analysis of the design of the front fork of the bike in question. Access to the School of Engineering’s 3D printers allowed Prof. Donndelinger to produce 3D printed versions of the front fork in question – and that of an ‘improved’ design – for use by advocates throughout the competition.
Cycling experts from Bicycle World in Waco made appearances at Baylor Law as well – volunteering their time to inform the case file drafters and the competitors of the ins-and-outs of cycling and to discuss how the bikes in the case work. Bicycle World also lent Baylor Law several bikes for testing and provided a bike for the final round.
The Top Gun X National Mock Trial Competition was underwritten by Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, PLLC, and sponsored by Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial. Thank you to LitSoftware’s TrialPad for their support during the competition.
Tatiana Terry, Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
Craig Shirley, Samford University's Cumberland School of Law
Kyle Decamp, UCLA School of Law
Imokhai Okolo, University of Akron School of Law
Professionalism Award Winner
Greg Dachko, Temple University Beasley School of Law
Technology Award Winner
Kian Khajooei, UCLA School of Law
The jurors for each round of Top Gun are practicing trial lawyers and justices. During Top Gun they act as competition judges. The Jurors for the final round of Top Gun X were:
The final round of Top Gun X was streamed live with expert commentary from some of the leading advocates and mock trial coaches in the country. A recording of the livestream with commentary can be viewed, here.
Brian Baloun – Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Megi Belegu – Fordham University School of Law
Greg Dachko – Temple University Beasley School of Law
Kyle DeCamp – UCLA School of Law
Ashley DiMuzio – Wake Forest University School of Law
Abigail Hudson – Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
Evan Larson – University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Simone Leighty – University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
Savannah McDonald – American University Washington College of Law
LaMark McGreen – Stetson University College of Law
Imokhai Okolo – University of Akron School of Law
Dennis Scanlon – Syracuse University College of Law
Craig Shirley – Samford University Cumberland School of Law
Vania Smith – Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
Tatiana Terry – Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
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