Mock Trial competes in national tournament

Ashley R. Lynam

Two years ago a small group of Villanova students, led by alumnus Brian Collins and Paul Vitale, founded the Villanova Mock Trial Team. Together, these dedicated students met in the basement rooms of Tolentine. They had no coaches and no outside guidance, but they had plenty of devotion and enthusiasm.

Now, after two years of hard work and commitment, the Villanova Mock Trial Team is a nationally- ranked group, 18 members strong. Mock Trial is an intercollegiate competition of universities across the nation who are members of the American Mock Trial Association. Founded over 20 years ago, the AMTA now has over 230 registered universities, many of which send several teams to compete each year. Teams are given a fictional legal case, alternating each year between civil and criminal trials. University teams then mimic the conduct of an authentic legal case, putting on trials for either a prosecution (plaintiff in a civil case), or a defense.

Each year, the Villanova Mock Trial Team participates in a series of invitational scrimmages in preparation for the regional tournament at Princeton University. The competition mandates self-discipline, intense preparation, and teamwork.

Students are also required to learn basic legal principles, including the Federal Rules of Evidence, proper trial procedures and courtroom etiquette. In the team’s first year of existence, it received a “Best New Team” award at the regional competition.

Last year, the team won an at-large bid to the National Tournament at Stetson Law School in St. Petersburg, Fla. This year, despite tough competition from schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown, both Villanova teams received bids to the national tournament. Two individual achievement awards were given to Matthew Hoffmeister and John Marty, who was ranked No. 1 attorney overall in the tournament.

Other individual achievement awards include best witness awards for both Brian Judge and Ashley Lynam. One of the Villanova teams received an honorable mention trophy, ranking No. 12 overall in their division. This was an unprecedented achievement for the University’s Mock Trial team, which was one of the youngest groups in the competition.

The Mock Trial Team’s victory depended on the assistance of the team’s coaches, Arthur “Buzz” Shuman and Richard Michaelson. Both coaches are attorneys with over 50 years of legal experience, and the two have dedicated many hours to pushing the team to a championship.

The leader of the team was directed by Ashi Mehrotra. As president of the Villanova Mock Trial Team, Mehrotra coordinated the team’s competitions and finances and handled all administrative duties. Mehrotra’s coaching echoed the Augustinian tradition here at the University, emphasizing honesty and hard work through the veritas credo. Although the team entered as strangers with little or no experience in Mock Trial, they ended the year as a unified team.