Eastern Kentucky University’s mock trial team competed in a tournament at the national level for the first time in three years from March 13-14. With a team of mostly first-time members, the mock trial team made it to the first round of nationals, competing against teams from Minnesota and Alabama. While they did not move on to the final round, they were able to take at least one ballot from each school’s team.
Mock trial is a class offered at EKU that allows students to argue a case in a mock courtroom setting. The teams are given a fictional court case, with topics ranging from criminal to civil cases, which they study and develop theories on. The cases include evidence and witnesses that can be called to give testimonies, each role being played by a team member. The team is required to develop arguments as both defendants and plaintiffs, incorporating aspects of debate and acting to make a convincing case for their side. The teams are then awarded “ballots” from the judges, which make up a final score and decides which teams will advance.
After competing in the regional tournament with a large amount of success, EKU’s team was able to advance to the national tournament this semester, which was conducted through Zoom.
“The first day [of regionals], we started 3-1, which put us in a good position… By the third round, we were 5-1 and we were really confident in that,” said Ethan Fowlie, a team captain and junior fire protection engineering and arson investigation major.
After receiving the six ballots needed to move on to nationals by the end of the tournament, the EKU team was able to advance to nationals for the first time since 2018. With the most experienced members of the team being juniors and many of the members being new to the team, this would be the first time any of them had been to a national tournament. This was also one of the few tournaments the team had been to that was completely online.
“A lot of us were a little hesitant about the online format. … That was one of the challenges but also one of the benefits, because we were all learning together,” said Kate Richardson, another team captain and a junior political science major.
The online format has also benefited the team because it allows for a greater opportunity to go to invitationals, when mock trial teams meet for scrimmage matches against one another. The online format that the teams are now meeting in allows for a greater number of these scrimmages to happen because there is no need to travel in order to have them. The invitationals allow for the team to practice their case before the tournaments begin.
“I think we were able to get in a few more reps this year, so that could have been a factor [in getting the team to nationals],” said Richardson.
The team was ultimately not able to advance past the opening rounds of the national tournament, ending the rounds with a 6-6 ratio of ballots and missing the mark by one.
“We’re coming back next year,” said Fowlie. “We have a really young, talented team … and we’re making a run for it.”