June 5, 2011
Sarah Chervinsky of Yale Law School was crowned the winner at Baylor Law School's National Top Gun Mock Trial Competition on Sunday afternoon, June 5, in Waco. Chervinsky defeated Shannon Cornman O'Guin of Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in the finals.
Serving as presiding judge was Andrew Hanen, United States District Judge, Southern District of Texas. Serving on the jury were Roy Barrett and Hayes Fuller of Namen Howell; Mark Mann, Jason Stephens and Louis Muldrow, professor emeritus and former director of Baylor Law's Practice Court Program.
Now in its second year, the National Top Gun was limited to 18 law schools and is unlike any other mock trial competition in the nation. A single student represented each school, instead of the usual two; participants did not receive the details of the mock case they dargue until a mere 24 hours before the competition began; and the winner was awarded $10,000. Baylor, as the organizing institution, did not field a team.
The competition is sponsored by the law firm Naman Howell Smith and Lee, PLLC, which has offices in the Texas cities of Austin, Fort Worth, Harker Heights, Temple and Waco. Organizers say the event was designed to provide a venue for schools with strong trial advocacy programs to go head-to-head with one another.
"This competition reflects the realities of trial practice. No second place. Winner take all," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "Thanks to the generosity and competition sponsorship of our decades-long friend of the Law School -- Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee -- we are able to make the Top Gun 'trophy' a cool $10,000 to the winner."
This year's fictional case, Barrett v. Amicable Life Insurance, involved a life insurance policy dispute. The policy holder died in a fall from Lover's Leap and the insurance company claimed it should not pay the widow, Mrs. Barrett, because she murdered her late husband. She claimed that the fall was an accident or that he was murdered by a business partner. The finals featured testimony from actual Texas Rangers, who portrayed investigating officers, a professor of psychology, who portrayed an expert witness, and stellar Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who portrayed a non-party witness. The problem was written by Professors Gerald Powell and Jeremy Counseller and Practice Court Assistant Will King.
The 18 participating law schools are, like Baylor, known for their trial advocacy programs. In March, Baylor Law's trial advocacy program moved up to third in the nation in U.S.News and World Report's 2012 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools."
Schools that participated in the Top Gun are Akron University Law School, Barry University School of Law, Chicago-Kent School of Law, Denver School of Law, Duquesne University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Northern Kentucky University College of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, Samford University - Cumberland School of Law, South Texas College of Law, Stetson University College of Law, Suffolk University Law School, Temple University School of Law, University of South Carolina School of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, Washington University School of Law and Yale Law School.
Last year, Jeffrey Goodman from Temple University's Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia was named the Top Gun.