United States Air Force Academy

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Department of Law

MOCK TRIAL TEAM

The Mock Trial Team offers cadets an opportunity to improve their oral communication, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership skills while simultaneously providing an 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. Cadets learn both substantive and procedural aspects of the law. They do this by role 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 cadets 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 Academy Mock Trial Team has met with substantial success. Each year the team competes from September through March/April travelling to approximately one invitational per month. During the 2013-2014 season our team earned multiple top attorney and witness awards and advanced past the Regionals to the AMTA Opening Round Championship Series in Newport Beach, CA were they ranked in the top 27% of the nation. This past success was certainly on par with our past performance as traditionally, the Academy’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 Academy’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, the Academy joined the elite group of teams who annually host an invitational tournament. The Thunderbird Tournament has its origins in an annual scrimmage among Colorado teams. However, in 2010, the Academy 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 (Academy teams finished 2nd and 3rd). In addition, University of Colorado 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, the venue of the tournament was moved from the classrooms of the Academy to the El Paso County Judicial Complex to enhance the competitive atmosphere by allowing competitors to practice in actual courtrooms and it has remained there ever since.

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