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Moving the Nationals Case up to ORCS?

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  • Moving the Nationals Case up to ORCS?

    Almost all of us can agree that AMTA's decision to make a second case per year for Nationals was a great move. It helped break up the monotony of using the same fact pattern for an entire year and it gave the top teams a chance to showcase their ability to adapt and create a case in only a matter of weeks. If Regionals and ORCS were tournaments favoring polished teams who had run the case dozens of times up to that point, Nationals favored teams who could figure out the optimal case strategies and calls without the benefit of outside feedback or several invitational tournaments to practice.

    However, while I love that AMTA is releasing a 2nd case at all, something that has always bugged me is that a vast majority of teams never get a chance to run them. Cases like Ginger v Heisman, or Taylor v. Trifecta Entertainment involve very unique parts of the law that a lot of people would have loved a chance to run and learn from. Certainly, a solution could be increasing the number of teams going to Nationals, but that comes with a large number of logistical issues that AMTA would have to deal with (and personally I think 48 is a good number for a final round of competition.)

    How effective would moving the Nationals case up to ORCS be at solving this problem?

    From the logistical point of view, this would be an easy change to make. Rather than focusing on case changes for ORCS, the case committee would instead focus on getting the 2nd case finished by late February. It could also potentially solve another issue I had noticed. I read the thread on ORCS a couple of weeks ago and noticed how the consensus seemed to be that ORCS is the most miserable of the three rounds of competition. It seems that by ORCS, most people are tired of running the main case (which I completely understand, despite AMTA trying to spice it up through case changes, I was honestly sick of MTS v. Kosack by Regionals.)

    Having a new case for ORCS could help reduce the issue of most ORCS rounds. That is great teams going up against each other with near perfect polish making rounds almost impossible for judges to consistently decide on. Rather than rounds being decided based on incredibly minor mistakes or judge pet peeves, ORCS rounds would instead focus on who could adapt to the new facts most effectively. And while that may lead to a lower overall quality of rounds at ORCS, I believe it would lead to a higher quality of rounds at Nationals. As Nationals would use that same fact pattern again (with a chance for AMTA to make case changes based on feedback from ORCS, US v. Barrow for example had balance issues that could have been improved through ORCS feedback.)

    Under this system each round of competition would be focused on something different.
    Regionals - Polish
    ORCS - Adapting on the fly
    Nationals - Both

    Would this be a change you would be in support of making? Obviously posts on Perjuries and Confessions aren't enough to get a clear opinion on the AMTA community's overall opinion on ORCS and the Nationals Case, but I'm curious what the gut reactions to this idea are.

  • #2
    I would definitely not be opposed to this but I do think there are a couple of matters to keep in mind:

    1. This would require some schedule changes. Right now there are only two weeks between regionals and ORCS and thats probably not enough for ORCS teams to put together a new case. They are already pushing it by having 3 weeks between ORCS and Nationals with Nationals caliber teams. Two weeks for the ORCS level pool just sounds messy. That might seem like a pretty easy fix because they can just extend the time between regionals and ORCS by shortening the time between ORCS and nationals since the Regionals-ORCS gap is the new case prep time rather than the ORCS-Nationals gap. But the shorter the ORCS-Nationals gap is the more problems people will have with flights and things for long distance travel. So just something AMTA would have to be careful of.

    2. I would be really concerned that AMTA would make the ORCS case pointlessly simple. There is also a trend towards making the NCT cases simpler and simpler. Barrow had so few facts and so little variation between rounds as compared to a case like Ginger v Heisman. As far as I can tell this is in response to coach complaints that the Nats prep is too hard or too much work for their students (including some coaches who tried to get rid of the new case on those grounds). If AMTA is dumbing down the cases because they don't think the Nationals teams can handle the short prep time, I'd hate to see what they would do when writing a case for ORCS teams to build on 3-4 weeks. So I'd be very happy to see changes like the ones you are proposing, but only if AMTA promised not to make the ORCS case stupidly easy.


    • #3
      I strongly oppose this. Most schools' ORCS prep is already hampered by spring break. People don't hate ORCS because they're bored with the case. They hate it because it's a pressure cooker tournament where one round can kill your chances of Nats. A brand new case increases that pressure. Plus, there are plenty of teams that are on the low-end of the experience pool that make it to ORCS every year, and I think making those teams learn a new case in 2-3 weeks (minus how ever many days off they let their competitors take for spring break) is a disservice.

      I also generally hate the idea of the Nats case altogether, but I get that this thread doesn't need to be about relitigating that decision.


      • #4
        I also strongly oppose this, for a similar reason as geneva. This would devastate lower-end ORCS teams chances to compete to earn a spot to Nationals, and turn ORCS into a truly miserable experience for a larger chunk of teams. Part of the fun of the nationals case (speaking as a former competitor at nationals) is the fact that you get to try fun stuff out, knowing that the odds of making the 5th round are nearly zero. There MUCH less pressure at Nationals, and that lack of pressure allows teams to enjoy working with a new case. But adding a new case to ORCS would turn it into a brutal 3 week experience.


        • #5
          I confess, I like splitting the difference. New case for ORCS. Another new case for nats. Make the game hard.


          • #6
            Coming from a new program myself, in its second year of existence, I love the idea of a new case for ORCS. I think this would make ORCS a true test of mock trial ability. Regionals tests a case theory that you've been working on all year. Having a short turn around would actually lead me to believe that newer teams that work hard would have just as good of a chance to qualify. The question regional tournaments would seek to answer is, "Is this team polished enough to advance?" Then, the question ORCS would set out to answer would be, "Is this team intelligent enough to dissect a case well in 3 weeks, while still being polished." It would add an element of skill, while also making it more difficult for those established programs to continue being as polished as they might be before ORCS.

            I think the ORCS fact pattern would ideally be just under 100 pages in total (splitting the difference between previous Nats cases and full blown, season-long AMTA cases), and I think it would be fun to have an "ORCS-style" case change before the NCT; such as adding a witness or two, and some new exhibits. This, to me, would seem to present the most honest representation of truly skilled teams at the Natty.

            I think a lot of times on perjuries I see people dismissing ideas in the name of how they will negatively affect new teams. But I think those comments tend to stem from the assumption that institutional knowledge itself is the one advantage that makes a mock trial teams successful. I would counter that by pointing out the trend we're seeing of increasing parity in the AMTA community. And to that point, adding an additional challenge to ORCS, like a brand new case, sounds like the kind of necessary step to filter out the good teams from the great ones. As a brand new team, I love that idea. I would hate to think that winning a bid to the NCT is primarily the result of luck of the draw (assuming the teams I hit were just as polished and as skilled as mine after a whole season working on the case together).


            • #7
              Originally posted by bdopl View Post
              I think the ORCS fact pattern would ideally be just under 100 pages in total (splitting the difference between previous Nats cases and full blown, season-long AMTA cases), and I think it would be fun to have an "ORCS-style" case change before the NCT; such as adding a witness or two, and some new exhibits. This, to me, would seem to present the most honest representation of truly skilled teams at the Natty.
              Yeah, case complexity is certainly something to be considered. Last year for example, Hendricks was clearly the better and more complex case than Barrow, and I can't imagine teams having a great time arguing a less interesting case for twice the number of rounds of competition as the year long case (excluding however many Invitationals they attend.)

              I think Ginger v. Heisman from a couple years ago is the perfect amount of complexity they should aim for, with a unique set of law to argue and swings to vary up call orders. Since then every Nats case has a had a standard 4 witnesses per side with no swings, which certainly wouldn't fly if you had the case for ORCS and Nationals.