Photo of USAFA Mock Trial Team

Colonel Paul Pirog, Head of Social Sciences  Division and Department of Law at USAFA, presents the 1st place team award to members of the USAFA “B-One” mock trial team at the 2nd Annual Thunderbird Invitational Mock Trial Tournament.

USAFA MOCK TRIAL TEAM

The Mock Trial Team at the U.S. Air Force Academy offers cadets an opportunity to improve their oral communication, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership skills while simultaneously providing both a source of education about the American legal system and an arena for competition against other colleges and universities.

The mock-trial advocate is exposed to a variety of knowledge about America’s legal system. Students learn both substantive and procedural aspects of the law. They do this by ole playing as either attorneys or witnesses in a fictitious trial.  Each season, the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), the college mock trial governing body comprised of 600+ teams, publishes a case file which teams use for the duration of the season.  In recent years, cases have involved topics such as murder, DUI, products liability, libel and slander.  Once the case file has been published, cadets practice daily to not only master the case file, but to understand the underlying substantive and procedural legal concepts.  For example, in a murder trial cadets will study the definitions and elements involved in proving murder while also practicing the art of conducting direct and cross examination, objecting, etc. At the conclusion of the season, cadets will have gained an understanding of these legal concepts on par with law students and practicing attorneys.  In addition, cadets will have drastically improved their ability to “think on their feet” and advocate effectively through oral presentation.

Since its inception in 1991, the USAFA Mock Trial Team has had with substantial success. Each year the team competes from September through March/April travelling to approximately one invitational per month.  This past year, our teams travelled to invitationals at Washington University (St. Louis MO), University of Arizona (Tucson AZ), Creighton University (Omaha NE), and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV).  In addition, the teams competed at the AMTA Regionals in Topeka KS and Kansas City MO as well as the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) in White Plains, NY.  During the 2011-2012 season our teams earned three top 5 finishes, the Spirit of AMTA award, and team members earned 27 individual awards.  This year’s success was certainly on par with our past performance as traditionally, USAFA’s teams have fared very well in invitational and regional competitions, regularly progressing to ORCS and on 4 occasions advanced to the National Tournament. The 1996 team placed 4th in the nation, with 5 members attaining All-American status and was named the USAFA’s Outstanding Club; the 2002 team earned several outstanding awards in Regional Competition and a bid to National Competition; and the 2003 team competed in the National Gold Tournament, with one member of the team attaining All-American status. The 2007 mock trial team captured 9th place in National Competition against the top 64 mock trial teams in the United States.

In 2010, USAFA joined the elite group of teams who annually host an invitational tournament.  The Thunderbird Invitational has its origins in an annual scrimmage among Colorado teams.  However, in 2010, USAFA took the next step by expanding the tournament to competitors nationwide.  In its inaugural year, the Thunderbird Invitational hosted 12 teams from 7 schools and 4 states.  The 2010 winner was Colorado State University (USAFA teams finished 2nd and 3rd).  In addition, Colorado University Boulder earned the first annual Polaris Award which is voted on by competitors and presented to the team displaying the highest degree of civility and professionalism.  In 2011, USAFA expanded the field of competitors to 16 teams and had representation from 9 schools and 7 states.  In addition, the venue of the tournament was moved from the classrooms of USAFA to the El Paso County Judicial Complex to enhance the competitive atmosphere by allowing competitors to practice in actual courtrooms.  USAFA finished 1st in the 2011 tournament followed by Creighton University and Arizona.  Southern Utah earned the Polaris Award.  The 3rd Annual Thunderbird Invitational is tentatively scheduled for Veteran’s Day weekend 2012 (Nov 10-11).  If you’re interested in competing or judging at the tournament, please contact the USAFA Mock Trial team at usafa.mocktrial@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in competing or judging at the tournament, please contact the USAFA Mock Trial team at usafa.mocktrial@gmail.com or visit the Thunderbird Invitational webpage.


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U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 28 Jul 14
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