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  • #31
    To me, the biggest problems with this case is that the opportunities for story-telling were limited. Fixes like allowing for a deposition defendant (allowing creative reasons for why Anderson tweeted what he/she did), having the witnesses interact in some way, giving more witnesses narratives about a specific day, things like that, could have made the case so much stronger. It felt like every witness operated in their own world, disconnected from every other witness. The strength of a case like MTS/Kosack is that most of the story takes place on the same day in the same place, allowing for witnesses to feel like they operate in the same world. Many of the witnesses (Okafur, Rivers, Peterson) simply stated facts in their affidavits from a long period of time (many of these facts being boring minutia about school board contracts and profit revenues). There was no through-line, no story. The reason Yale's defense was SO exciting is that their witnesses told a simple, effective story that was unfortunately absent from the affidavits (this creativity seems to have gotten them in plenty of hot water, slightly related perhaps). Telling a story about a chimp going wild and killing someone is exciting - everyone is involved, witness characterization is rich, narrative is interesting. Telling a story about a company losing money over a period of time, oh, and also a grocery store clerk is testifying...um not as much.

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    • #32
      I think this case was too much, and I think quality suffered. I know this assessment is subjective, and I won't argue with you if you liked it, but I thought the amount of swing witnesses, options for damages, the relatively dense and dry fact pattern, and the number of elements to be proven contributed to case presentations that were not as polished as they have been in past years' NCTs. I watched several top rounds last year and this year, and was generally less impressed this time around.

      Even the good teams were unclear about expressing what damages they were or were not pursuing, what the elements were, how a jury could understand the burden and what it meant to prove something with clear and convincing evidence, and/or what elements defense was or was not contesting. You don't have to get the legal issues precisely nailed down to make a compelling round of mock trial, but it does make it trickier.

      In terms of the facts, I think the damages issues, especially any kind of attempt to explain economic concepts to judges who didn't know the case, was rife with possibility for error and confusio​​​​​n. I think the most successful teams just ignored damages as much as possible. On the other end of the scale, I saw defense teams trying to do way too much with Lee, and got punished by judges for it.

      As for what I think contributed to the P bias, I think it was a combination of 3 things. Most importantly, I thought the explanation the defendant has to give for why she posted is undeniable evidence of reckless disregard - a woman in a position of influence deciding to blast out the rumors of some stranger in the grocery store, without hedging the story or doing any research, is an absurd idea. If the case writers were doing this over, I wish they would add one more element of due diligence by the defendant that's favorable to her claim. So the defense could at least hang their hat on the fact that Anderson did something to at least try and verify her statement. That narrative just made it too easy for plaintiff to focus in on their best element, malice, and gloss over the rest.

      Second, for the reasons I've stated above I think both Anderson and Lee were very weak calls, but the permutations of swing witnesses pretty much required D to rely on them. Third, and relatedly, the fact that P had so many permutations for how to run their case meant D was just walking in blind and may not have been responsive to what P was doing.

      I think someone could read all this and decide that the NCT case did its job - differentiate the best from the rest, by creating opportunities to show your superior skill. And I think it did a fair job of that. But man, this was way too much work for 2.5 weeks. Even if there are plenty of students who are game for the challenge, I think we are doing a disservice to them by overwhelming them with material at an academically important time of the school year.

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      • #33
        As someone who wasn't at Nationals, I can't really judge how the case worked in practice, but I have read it over twice.

        I kind of liked how the Civil Nationals cases over the past couple of years covered new and unique topics AMTA had never touched before. Stuff like Election Fraud and Copyright Infringement are probably not interesting enough topics for a year long case, but for National Competition they fit very well and taught new and unique areas of the law to the competitors, which at the end of the day furthers AMTA's goal of education.

        AMTA has already touched defamation before with Walton v. BNN, and while obviously new competitors didn't get a chance to run that case, I think I would've preferred a different topic (especially when the overall facts of the case really didn't excite me.)

        I was incredibly surprised when I saw Yale call the defendant, reading the affidavit it looked like half of the Plaintiff's case could be proven just from that cross, it seems like that's the common consensus as well. I'm also surprised that we have a Plaintiff sided case for once (I guess the traditional trend of defense bias increasing as team's get more polished with the case doesn't work with only 3 weeks to prepare)

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        • #34
          I loved the complexity that the case brought, especially vis-à-vis Barrow from last year. Sure, teams may not have been as polished as they would have liked (having one fewer week to prep than last year only exacerbated the issue, I bet), but it's a worthwhile tradeoff. These are 48 of the top teams in AMTA, and seeing the degree to which they could (and did) rise to a challenge is a highlight.

          I think part of the reason the damages issue was so muddy was because the expert reports (particularly the P expert's) were light on numbers and detail. It could have been helpful to have had data (like with the ticket sales numbers in the RacheterWorld case or the D expert in Heisman) that teams could have used to build testimony and, more importantly, demonstratives.

          Originally posted by geneva View Post
          I think the most successful teams just ignored damages as much as possible.
          I noticed Rhodes didn't harp on damages much in the final round. It made for a very clean case from them.

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          • #35
            Wouldn’t it be a reasonable objection response (to Patel speaking with parents/doctors) that it was going towards the subsequent action of Patel to write the story?

            I agree going into what the article stated is too much. Although I could see a weak argument being made for subsequent action of the defendant with the article.

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            • #36
              Originally posted by RedRupee1 View Post

              I was incredibly surprised when I saw Yale call the defendant, reading the affidavit it looked like half of the Plaintiff's case could be proven just from that cross, it seems like that's the common consensus as well.
              The issue with the case was that if you did not call the defendant, you were forced to call two swing witnesses. In the rounds where P had the first call, a defense witness might have had to prepare up to three directs. It does seem that Yale managed this pretty well, but for teams that maybe don't have a lot of personnel and in the insane time crunch imposed by this case, this might not be super realistic.

              I found the swing witnesses to be very obnoxious for double sided attorneys as well. Last year, with the side constraints, an attorney would have to know 2 crosses on each side, so 4 crosses total for a double. This year, a plaintiff attorney would have to know 4, and a defense attorney, 5. This means that one person could have to learn 9 crosses at a nationals level in just two and a half weeks. It is certainly a challenge and I am sure that the swings were put in place to test the competency of competitors, but it seems as though the swing witnesses just added a lot of undue stress.

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              • #37
                Personally, I absolutely loved this case. Definitely my favorite in the past few years and possibly my favorite I've ever played. I thought the level of complexity was fantastic, the legal issues were interesting, and the options for both P and D made every trial very different. Would have loved to play this case for a full year.

                There were of course some flaws (dramatic P bias, difficulty of not calling both of the D side-constrained witnesses) but imo most were not substantially more than in any other Nats case. The biggest issue was what a couple people have pointed out re: the lack of numbers/graphs/financial records/anything concrete and supported by the case materials for either expert. Also I would have loved a deposition defendant and think it would have helped the bias issue some.

                As to seeing overall quality of rounds reduced due to a more complex case with too much to do, I think that was more likely a result of shorter prep time than more complicated case, and the solution going forward should be expanding prep time to 3.5 weeks again rather than oversimplifying fun and challenging cases. (That said, I do strongly feel that prep time needs to be expanded again-- particularly as a program on a quarter system, which meant that a full week of our 2.5 this year was our finals week, nats prep was absurd even for the most mock obsessed of us. But I'm getting off topic.)


                I think the most uncommon thing my team did with this case was not calling Madani on P (our call was Mendez, Rivers, Peterson) and focusing on contract loss only. This helped us avoid a lot of the messy lack of numbers and sketchiness of damages, and while it meant we had to spend more time arguing about motives and Ex 11 rationales, it helped simplify and streamline the case a lot. I'm curious to hear whether anyone else besides Rhodes didn't call Madani, or whether there were other teams going for contract only.

                On D, I found the question of what actually caused the loss of sales/contract to be the most interesting and strongest defense argument. The Patel article ended up being a huge part of our case, and we never called Patel (and actually were more able to use it as a possible alternate cause because Patel wasn't there to say she only had 50 readers). Conceding falsity and focusing on alternate cause really helped streamline this point, but even with that we were always very close to losing the hearsay fight on the article and I'm curious as to whether teams contesting falsity too had more trouble getting it in.

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by kmcf8 View Post
                  Personally, I absolutely loved
                  On D, I found the question of what actually caused the loss of sales/contract to be the most interesting and strongest defense argument. The Patel article ended up being a huge part of our case, and we never called Patel (and actually were more able to use it as a possible alternate cause because Patel wasn't there to say she only had 50 readers). Conceding falsity and focusing on alternate cause really helped streamline this point, but even with that we were always very close to losing the hearsay fight on the article and I'm curious as to whether teams contesting falsity too had more trouble getting it in.
                  My team did a contract only case but called Madani. We played with the stuff in the report to make it more experty and prepped all the 702 battles that we expected to see. I agree it made the case more streamlined.

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                  • #39
                    My absolute favorite facts in the case were the two reprimands Emerson Lee received in 2007 (accounting error) and 2009 (drinking on the job).

                    About a hundred complicated, intertwining evidentiary issues (some unresolved!) bloom from just these two little facts.

                    Firstly, are they even relevant? The only reasonable answer to me is that it attacks the expert's credentials and credibility generally. But since these two reprimands are so far removed in time, and there isn't a real link between the accounting error in 2007 and the witness's work in this case, does the evidence even have a tendency to make the witness less credible? Let's say that they do.

                    Next, is the 2007 accounting error improper character evidence? If you walk through the plaintiff's purpose in bringing it up, it's easy for a judge to agree that the whole point of the evidence is to prove Lee's propensity to make accounting errors. In this light, it fits the definition of improper prior bad act evidence pretty neatly. So how does the plaintiff get around that? Well there are a couple avenues.

                    First, say it's for another purpose under Rule 404(b) (and kind of 702(a)): the evidence isn't being offered to prove propensity, but to undermine the witness's expertise by attacking their skills and experience. Even if it's not up to a jury to gatekeep whether a witness is qualified to give an expert opinion, they still have to measure the credibility of that opinion, and the factors of 702(a) (including skills and experience) go into that. But even if it's not up to the jury to decide whether a witness has enough skills and experience to give a qualified opinion, there's something to be said for allowing "anti-foundation" anyway. Witnesses qualified under 702 get special powers that lay witnesses don't. They can give more opinions while relying on inadmissible evidence, and they don't even have to explain their opinions. There's a decent argument (one that courts have used in some places) that the adverse party should be allowed to use extra tools (like prior bad act evidence related to the expert's field) to undermine the witness's credibility. But let's assume a court doesn't buy that argument.

                    Second, the 2007 accounting oopsie is being offered to attack the witness's character for truthfulness under 608(b). Since the FBI told the witness s/he got the numbers wrong, and the witness submitted the numbers anyway, the 2007 reprimand seems good for the purpose of calling Lee a liar. So let's say the judge does buy that argument, and is ready to overrule the improper character objection.

                    Finally, 403. The "12 years removed" argument rears its head again, both decreasing the probative value and increasing the unfairly prejudicial effect. For the 2009 drinking on the job reprimand, there's undeniably a high level of unfair prejudice. If I were judging, I think the only way I'd let in the 2009 reprimand is if the witness opened the door by affirmatively claiming s/he had a spotless record or something like that. For the 2007 accounting reprimand, it's a close call that courts are split over. Some courts say it fails 403, and some say it comes in to attack the expert's credibility.

                    This is all a long way of saying that I love these facts, and they'd probably be a really good question on a law school evidence exam.

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                    • #40
                      Did anyone see the search history used effectively? I found it very odd that Amta gave this pretty good exhibit only to have the witness directly refute its usefulness in their own affidavit.

                      When they made the case changes and limited witness familiarity with the exhibit to just be defendant, I was really scratching my head for what Amta intended for that exhibit.

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                      • #41
                        Originally posted by kmcf8 View Post
                        I think the most uncommon thing my team did with this case was not calling Madani on P (our call was Mendez, Rivers, Peterson) and focusing on contract loss only. This helped us avoid a lot of the messy lack of numbers and sketchiness of damages, and while it meant we had to spend more time arguing about motives and Ex 11 rationales, it helped simplify and streamline the case a lot. I'm curious to hear whether anyone else besides Rhodes didn't call Madani, or whether there were other teams going for contract only.
                        Minnesota also had a Peterson, Rivers, Mendez call. They brought up the MUSD contract, but their main focus was on the sales damages. Mendez was able to convey them (at least the non-growth damages) in a way that didn't come off as sketchy.

                        Ray Barr (the Amazing)
                        "Bow ties are cool."

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