Baylor Law School Mock Trial Teams Sweep AAJ Regional Tournament

March 6, 2009

Two Baylor Law School Mock Trial Teams swept the American Association for Justice regional Student Advocacy Competition on March 1. Finishing first was the team of Ed Cloutman, Tom Jacob, Blaire Knox and James Hatchitt; runners-up were Abby Nettles, Carson Runge, Kaye Johnson and Justin Smith. The first-place finishers will compete in the national finals, which will run April 2-5 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"With Baylor vs. Baylor in the regional finals, it's a shame that only one team can go to nationals. But it's good to know that it takes a Baylor team to beat a Baylor team," said associate professor Jim Wren, who coached the teams with Kathy Serr.

In the semifinals, Baylor defeated teams from the University of Texas and SMU law schools. In the finals, the first-place team represented the plaintiff. For the tournament, teams must try a fictional civil case that centers on whether a hotel was negligent because a hotel guest was shot and killed in its parking lot. The case will remain the same for the national finals.

"I am particularly proud of these teams for the level of work they put into preparation," Wren said. "Six of the eight team members have not yet completed Practice Court, which meant they had to learn how to try a case and argue objections at a highly competitive level in a matter of weeks, and they did it well enough to beat every other law school team in the state.

"Frankly, they couldn't have done it without the involvement and coaching from a group of top Baylor trial lawyers and judges from around the state who gave up nights and weekends to work with them for hours at a time. Our Baylor alumni network is amazing. We're grateful."

Wren and Serr also recognized help from the Baylor "red shirt" team of Scott Riddle, Michelle Simpson, Joy Tull, Bobbi Ingram, Victoria Honey, Lacey Mase, and Ronnie Turner, who practiced and traveled with the teams, as well as evidence coach Amber Steiss and student coach Alex Bell.

The AAJ competition focuses on civil cases and tends to deal with products liability, personal injury or medical malpractice/negligence issues. Teams are judged on their skills in case preparation, opening statements, use of facts, the examination of lay and expert witnesses and closing arguments. In 2005 and 2007, Baylor teams won the AAJ National Championship.

"The strength of our advocacy program is shown through the success our students have in advocacy competitions," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "The practice-oriented method we use to educate future lawyers has been proven time and time again to be a method that works. We know what it takes to win, and our faculty and the alumni who graciously volunteer their time impart that to our students."

The win marks the fourth Baylor team this spring to qualify for a national finals. Two teams will compete in the national finals of the National Trial Competition and one team in the ABA Client Counseling Competition. Additionally, a Baylor team made the round of 16 at the National Moot Court Competition in New York City early in 2009.

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