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Mock Trial Association hopes to build momentum after successful first year

Kyla Stepp and Jeremy Castle both started at Central Michigan University in Fall 2016. Outside the classroom, the fixed-term faculty members in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration serve as administrators for the CMU Mock Trial Association.

Both previously came from places that had mock trial teams, so they were surprised CMU did not already have a team.Stepp said many major universities have a competing team and CMU has a lot of pre-law students. She and Castle thought there would be a lot of students interested in starting a mock trial team.

Central Michigan University’s Mock Trial Association held its first mock trial where they tried Winter v. TBD, Inc. in an age discrimination case. The political science and public administration department sponsored Friday's event, which took place in Pearce Hall Room 127.

Stepp said that by the time they had the new registered student organization constructed and received the case, it was already the end of October. With almost a month off for Christmas break they didn't feel like their team had adequate time to prepare for this year’s National Tournament hosted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The group did not participate.

“This was the first year for a mock trial and none of the students had ever done anything like this," Stepp said. "I think the turn around after six months was great. They did such a great job with the amount of time they were given to work on this.”.

Ypsilanti senior Tyler Webb is the RSO vice president. During the trial his role was the lead attorney for the plaintiff. These roles were handed out to the members of CMU’s Mock Trial Association after each member tried out for the part they wanted. They did not officially find out their roles until second semester, which only gave them about three-to-four months to prepare for their roles.

Webb became aware of the Mock Trial team during his campaigns and elections class with Stepp.

“I wanted to be an attorney (for the trial) because one day I want to actually be an attorney so this was the best practice I could get," Webb said. "It was an awesome opportunity. I am heading off to Boston to go to law school once I graduate and this trial built upon the skill set I have previously accumulated at CMU.”

Bay City junior Ryan Schofield was the prosecuting attorney during the trial. He learned about Mock Trial through the political science department and plans on going to law school post-graduation.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the law and to engage more with students who are also interested in law," Schofield said. “I thought the trials turnout went well and it was fun. In preparation for the trial we met every Thursday night for several hours. The biggest struggle was balancing mock trial with regular courses but with effort there was enough time for both.”

For this trial, there was no jury because they wanted to keep this trial as similar to the championships they will be competing in next year. Even though there was no winner of the trial, both Webb and Schofeild felt that the plaintiff would have won the case.

“I am obviously biased but I think our opening and closing statements did a great job of painting the picture for the audience,” Webb said. “I think we did a great job of highlighting the overwhelming precedent (case law) that was applicable in our assertion of wrongful termination based on age.”

The graduating Webb believes it has what it takes to compete at nationals next year. Mock Trial Association President and Midland junior Anna Owens, the next Student Government Association President, also said she is grateful to Castle and Stepp for starting the RSO and for teaching the team how to create a case.