Rutgers Law students John Flynn ’18, Christina McGinnis ’19, and Melissa Taustine ’18 represented the Rutgers Law National Mock Trial Team at the three-day Texas Young Lawyers National Trial Competition Regionals, hosted by Temple Law School in Philadelphia, from Feb. 9-11.
The Rutgers team competed against 21 other teams from regional law schools including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Widener, Dickinson, Seton Hall and Villanova Law Schools. They were selected to compete against the best mock trial teams in the region.
For each of the three rounds of competition, the team conducted full trials of a civil tort case involving a fatal accident at a grain elevator against a competing school. The Rutgers team represented both the plaintiff and the defendant in separate rounds. Each round consisted of arguing pre-trial motions and conducting a full trial, including opening statements, closing argument and conducting direct and cross examinations of both fact and expert witnesses.
During the three-day competition, the Rutgers team won two of the three rounds. Significantly, the team won their rounds against the top seeded teams from Dickinson and Widener Law. The team was defeated by Temple, a team that rose to the finals and has won the competition consistently in the past ten years.
“Yet, again the National Mock Trial Team performed superbly in a competitive field. They were impressive and strong representatives for Rutgers Law,” said Andrew Rossner, Associate Dean for Professional and Skills Education, who oversees the Mock Trial program at Rutgers Law in Newark.
“The team not only have developed incredible trial advocacy skills, their professionalism and team spirit cannot be beat,” he said. Team’s members, Flynn and Taustine, stepped in at the last minute when two team members slated to compete withdrew from the National Team with less than four weeks left. McGinnis, Flynn and Taustine kicked into to high gear and worked tirelessly over the last three weeks practicing and preparing for the competition. Two team alumni, Maria McKee '17 and Samantha McCluskey '16 assisted with coaching.
“Every trial is a learning opportunity. For this competition I got to argue for both sides, and it was the first time I had to prep witnesses who I did not speak to until the day of the trial, which made it more challenging,” said McGinnis. “Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to future competitions.”
Taustine added, “We had a great time competing in Philadelphia this year. It's always a tough competition but we were able to make a good showing and win two out of our three rounds . . . Although we are always disappointed to not advance, the best part of being a part of this team is working hard with close friends.”
The National Trial Team will next compete in the prestigious ABA/John Marshall National Criminal Trial Advocacy competition in March. Based upon the team's successes in the past two years, Rutgers Law has been invited, for the first time, to this elite invitational competition. National Team members Immanuel Adeola ’18, Matthew Capone ‘18, Steve Tegrar ’18, and Taustine will represent Rutgers Law at the competition in Chicago starting on March 8.
The Moot Court Board’s National Appellate Team will compete in the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition Regionals in New York City on February 22 – 24. Flynn and Krystal Valentin ‘18 will represent the Law School. Last year, Rutgers Law took the Champion position and advanced to the National Round in Chicago, as well as earned 3rd place in the Best Brief category.
“Alumni, students, faculty and staff should be proud of what our students have achieved through the Moot Court Board Programs. They have shown an extraordinary level of dedication to developing their skills and to being exemplary representatives of the law school. That dedication and skill has made Rutgers Law a national advocacy powerhouse,” Rossner said.