Mock Trial clubs around the nation, including the University of New Mexico Mock Trial, were forced to stop competing due to COVID-19 regulations put in place by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA).
The Mock Trial club studies court cases and competes with other collegiate level clubs around the United States.
AMTA typically releases the cases that all Mock Trial clubs will study nation-wide but made the decision to not release the spring case due to the coronavirus pandemic. This impacts both high school and collegiate levels.
“Any competition that’s held is run through (AMTA) and they are the equivalent of royalty... that are paid in order to hold the competition,” UNM Mock Trial President Lanz Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he hopes a case will be released this summer so the club can get started again. AMTA recently released a preview of the 2020-2021case but it still remains uncertain of when Mock Trial clubs will be allowed to compete again, according to their website.
“Aside from the extra practice time that we could have had as well as workshops during this last portion of the spring semester, I don’t think it’s going to throw us off too much,” Sanchez said.
Levels of case access depend on fees that AMTA requires. A general payment will allow access to the case but increasing levels of payment allow access to competitions.
Competitions include invitationals, regionals, opening round championships (ORC), and nationals. Clubs around the nation compete up this ladder for the chance to attend and win nationals.
Tryouts for the Mock Trial student club take place during the early fall semester at UNM. Students can try out to be an attorney or a witness.
“We get a gauge as to how you think on your feet as well as how you present when you have the time to prepare,” Sanchez said.
Mock Trial tries to appeal to newer students specifically so that they can progress with the club over the years.
“This is an activity where the longer you’re in it, the more you build on it, and the better you become,” Sanchez said. “Trying to optimize your time in there is the best avenue to go about but we do also cater to the older individuals or people that are further along in their schooling as well.”
Mock Trial officers offer workshops in preparation for the tryouts, teaching things like general competition information, how to write a direct-examination and cross-examination, time parameters and more.
“If you do decide you want to try out, you’re not going in completely blind,” Sanchez said.
AMTA requires no more than 10 students on a competing team and the UNM Mock Trial tries for two teams each year. About 25 students are accepted into the club, with consideration of dropouts. A third team is created if all 25 students remain.
Mock Trial has no specific degree requirement and Sanchez said that the club is made up of an array of various majors. Business majors and political science majors tend to join the club more.
When AMTA decides to release another case and Mock Trial begins to meet again, the organization will go back to their regular meeting times twice a week in the Student Union Building.
“What we would do depends on where in the lifecycle of the case we are,” Sanchez said. “We would conduct different aspects of practice, whether it be writing, opening statements, closing arguments, writing direct examinations, cross-examinations.”
Different members of the community, such as attorneys or law firms, show their support for Mock Trial through donations.
UNM is the only university in New Mexico that has a competitive collegiate Mock Trial team, according to Sanchez. They rank within the top 30 out of 435 teams consistently in competitions. The club has also made it to national competitions in the past.
“UNM’s team is actually fairly notable over the past several years,” Sanchez said.
He added that although the team is not able to continue meeting at the moment, he looks forward to hopefully reconvening for the 2020-2021 school year with a new case and new competitions.
Megan Gleason is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716