Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Trial by Combat 2018

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Trial by Combat 2018

    I have been receiving a number of questions about Trial by Combat, and I thought it might be a good idea to answer some of them publicly.

    (As background, my name is Justin Bernstein. I used to be the head coach for NYUís and UC Irvineís mock trial teams, and last year I became a professor and trial program director at Drexel Universityís Kline School of Law in Philadelphia. Drexel has a very successful mock trial team and a strong desire to have an even more successful mock trial team. My first order of business was trying to recruit AMTA competitors; hence the creation of a new mock trial scholarship. You can blame me for the advertisements in your cases this year.)

    Trial by Combat is, to my knowledge, the first college mock trial 1-on-1 tournament. There are 1-on-1 predecessors at other levels: Baylor Law has run Top Gun since 2010, and Iíve run Gladiator for high school students since 2015. Our inaugural Trial by Combat is June 22-24, 2018 in Philadelphia.

    Here are some questions I received. Feel free to post others, or email me at justin.bernstein@drexel.edu. If I get an email question that might interest others, I will post it here. I won't comment on why we chose one person over another, but I will generally answer anything else.


    How does the competition work?
    On Friday, June 22, the competitors will receive the case. The case will have one witness per side. Competitors will have 24 hours to prepare.

    There are four preliminary trialsóthree Saturday, one Sunday. If three trials in one day sounds crazy, remember that these trials are significantly shorter than AMTA trials because thereís only one witness per side. I will estimate each trial to run about 75 minutes.

    During the four preliminary rounds, each competitor will play each role exactly once: P attorney, D attorney, P witness, and D witness. Attorney performance will be weighted more heavily.

    The top two competitors will face in the championship trial on Sunday afternoon.


    ďWhere is the tournament? Are spectators allowed? OH MY GOD, CAN I COME WATCH?Ē
    This is my favorite question I received so far.

    Yes, spectators are welcome. All trials will be open to the public.

    The tournament is in our new Trial Advocacy Institute, in Center City, Philadelphia. Speaking as a mock trial nerd, this building is like a mock trial playground: a renovated five-story building entirely devoted to trial advocacy. We have four courtrooms, including the spectacular ceremonial courtroom that will host AMTAís 2019 Final Round; additional rooms that convert to courtrooms; space for awards ceremonies; and separate rooms for judge instruction and tabulation. Itís pretty sweet.



    Will the tournament be livestreamed?
    Thatís the plan.
    Last edited by Justin B.; April 30th, 2018, 06:55 AM.

  • #2
    Here are some questions posted in the other thread. (I will work through all of the questions, but I will start with these.)

    Will the same competitors work with each other as attorney and witness for the duration of the tournament, or will those pairs change each round, (in which case, directs would be ad libbed)? If the attorney-witness pairs will indeed change, who will play the witnesses in the final round? Will there be any sort of variation in the witnesses which appear in each trial, as we have become accustomed to in AMTA competition? Will attorneys give statements during these trials, or will they effectively consist of one direct and cross versus another? (from womptrial)
    During the four preliminary trials, each attorney will perform one opening, direct, cross, and closing. Attorney-witness pairs will change each round. Directing attorneys will have 15 minutes to prepare their witness. This is similar to the format used at Gladiator and at various law school tournaments.

    The witness lineup doesn't change during the four preliminary rounds. There is little need for variation. For one thing, each competitor is only performing as an attorney on each side of the case once (unless she qualifies for the final). For another, competitors are preparing an entire case -- on both sides, plus witness roles -- in 24 hours. That's challenge enough.

    The witnesses for the final round will be announced at the closing ceremony.

    I will make the tournament rulebook public, probably in a couple weeks.

    I imagine that chance will largely determine which competitors appear as attorneys in the final round. The tab director will have only two performances by which to evaluate each attorney, and given the quality of the field, I expect that the margins between competitors will be quite close. Hopefully, Drexel can secure a large enough judging panel for each round to mitigate these concerns. (from womptrial)
    Of course, some level of chance, subjectivity, and judges' stylistic preference affects every mock trial round. That said, I suspect that the 1-on-1 format actually reduces the role of chance and subjectivity. It's much easier to compare two people head-to-head because they are constantly facing off. It's much easier for the judges to maintain attention because the trials are shorter. Also, the 1-on-1 ballots are easier for the judges to complete -- more on that in another question, later.

    The results from the 1-on-1 tournaments suggest both that the results are consistent -- and pretty spot-on. At Top Gun in 2015 and 2016, Ben Wallace and Rahul Hari -- both former AMTA two-time All-Americans -- made consecutive final rounds. Most AMTA stars have fared extremely well at Top Gun: All-Americans Jeff Goodman (GW undergrad) and Sarah Chervinsky (Chicago undergrad) won, All-American and national champ Dan Young (UVA) was runner-up, multi-award-winner Collin Tierney (Minnesota-Morris) won, All-American James Caress (UCLA) was a semi-finalist, etc. At Gladiator, Andy Parker (now at Yale) made consecutive final rounds with a ballot record of 11-1 in preliminary rounds. The most recent winner, a young woman named Audrey Shepard, has a ballot record of 21-1 over two years, including her 7-0 final round victory. These results are hard to explain by chance. Indeed, virtually every high school Gladiator who has gone on to AMTA stardom -- Andy, Yale's Elizabeth Bays, UCLA's Megan Jones (the 2015 champ) -- has done well at Gladiator (and I suspect we will see that even more as more Gladiators become juniors and seniors). As another metric, "splits" -- where the judges disagree about the winner -- are less common at Gladiator and Top Gun than at college tournaments.

    Notwithstanding all of that, though, I agree the margin between our competitors will be close. So, yes, we will be working hard to recruit a large, qualified judging pool.

    One fact about the tournament, however, seems amiss to me. Out of twelve competitors, eight are male, and only four are female. That sort of gender imbalance is simply not reflected in the distribution of attorney awards at regionals, ORCs, and nationals. Perhaps, that imbalance is reflected in the applicant pool, in which case, less fault would lie with those calling the shots. However, I should hope that equal representation is made a priority next year, and perhaps that goal can be taken into account in the selection of the remaining eight competitors. (from womptrial)
    I received a lot of questions about the composition of the field. I will answer all of those at once -- including the qualifications we prioritize, and the deleted question about ethnic diversity -- once our field is finalized, which should be next week.


    I have a good faith basis to believe that there will be 16 competitors (from DefenseMid)
    This good faith basis is correct. I intend to limit the field to 16 this year. This was a hard decision, as it will result in excluding many outstanding competitors, including multiple All-Americans. But in our first year running the tournament, I decided to prioritize judges-per-round and fairness of outcome (when the field becomes larger, four rounds becomes less of a fair metric for determining which two students make the Final).

    * * *

    I will address other questions in a later post, starting with the ones in the other thread and then those I've been emailed.

    Comment


    • #3
      Will tab be posted somewhere from Trial by combat? (from Adevans)
      Yes, we will make results available.

      Does anyone know about how extensive the case materials are? (from scottyiiih)
      This year's case is longer than a Gladiator case (a dense 25-30 pages) but shorter than a standard year-long AMTA case (this year 150 pages). The case includes governing law, statements from two witnesses, and exhibits.

      Will you release the case publicly? (email question)
      Yes.

      What is the case topic? (email question)
      We will announce the topic at the Opening Ceremony on June 22.

      I'm assuming - baselessly - that they're only accepting one person per team (from ThugLyf)
      You'íre correct. Trial by Combat is limited to one competitor per school.

      Can we [the competitors] get help from teammates? (email question)
      During the tournament, each competitor may receive help from exactly one person. It can be a coach, teammate, family member Ė whomever they want.

      Can I judge? (email question)
      We just opened judge registration -- here is the link to sign up. The overwhelming majority of our judges will be JDs. We will also accept three other categories of judges: (1) law students with significant trial advocacy experience; (2) experienced mock trial coaches; and (3) former nationally successful competitors who have not attended law school (e.g., Yale's Daniel Stern).

      Comment


      • #4
        What do you all think about the competitors? Anyone stand out as favorites?
        1. Deisy Abarca-Espiritu, University of Rochester
        2. Elizabeth Bays, Yale University
        3. Christopher Grant, Northwood University
        4. Kaitlyn Harper, Northern Illinois University
        5. Stephen Johnson, University of Cincinnati
        6. Mike Kleynman, Rutgers University
        7. Danielle Kunkel, Miami University
        8. Dylan McAuley, University of Richmond
        9. Nick Ramos, New York University
        10. Eric Roytman, The Ohio State University
        11. Jack Seigenthaler, Stanford University
        12. Rachel Sommers, Columbia University
        13. Zeke Starr, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
        14. Sarah Stebbins, Georgia Institute of Technology
        15. Deniz Tunceli, University of Virginia
        Still waiting on 1 more name to be added to this already insanely stacked field.

        Comment


        • #5
          Can you reveal if it will be a civil or criminal case?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by DefenseMid View Post
            What do you all think about the competitors? Anyone stand out as favorites?
            1. Deisy Abarca-Espiritu, University of Rochester
            2. Elizabeth Bays, Yale University
            3. Christopher Grant, Northwood University
            4. Kaitlyn Harper, Northern Illinois University
            5. Stephen Johnson, University of Cincinnati
            6. Mike Kleynman, Rutgers University
            7. Danielle Kunkel, Miami University
            8. Dylan McAuley, University of Richmond
            9. Nick Ramos, New York University
            10. Eric Roytman, The Ohio State University
            11. Jack Seigenthaler, Stanford University
            12. Rachel Sommers, Columbia University
            13. Zeke Starr, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
            14. Sarah Stebbins, Georgia Institute of Technology
            15. Deniz Tunceli, University of Virginia
            Still waiting on 1 more name to be added to this already insanely stacked field.
            Favorites: Roytman, Sommers, Kunkel, Stebbins, Ramos, Tunceli, Bays

            Other contenders: Johnson, Seigenthaler, McAuley, Kleynman

            Underdogs: Abarca-Espiritu, Harper, Grant, Starr



            Comment


            • #7
              I'm interested to see how much witnessing plays a role in the final round. It seems like Sommers (who has All-Americans as both an attorney and a witness) might be favored over someone like Roytman or Bays (who exclusively attorney). Also, Tunceli is clearly the most successful witness of the field - I just wonder if that will translate into success as an attorney, where he may be be a bit weaker.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by BillieTheKid View Post

                Favorites: Roytman, Sommers, Kunkel, Stebbins, Ramos, Tunceli, Bays

                Other contenders: Johnson, Seigenthaler, McAuley, Kleynman

                Underdogs: Abarca-Espiritu, Harper, Grant, Starr


                Count Katie Harper out at your own risk. It's absurd it took as long as it did for her to make the roster. I'd take Stebbins, Kleynman, Harper, Sommers in that order.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The list of competitors is finalized! Last person added was Enrico Trevisani from Arizona.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'll be interested to see how much more heavily weighted the attorney scores are than the witness ones. Depending on how much that difference is, someone like Tunceli could be handed an institutional advantage in that there's not a lot of worry anyone else on that list would take witness points from him, whereas there are arguable ways that everyone there loses attorney points.

                    And I think an underestimated factor here is going to be the one advisor that each competitor chooses to bring. Will the ones from top programs bring their AMTA board coaches (Stebbins-Warihay, Roytman-Bluebond, etc...) or will the advisors primarily be other competitors?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PMiddle View Post
                      I'll be interested to see how much more heavily weighted the attorney scores are than the witness ones. Depending on how much that difference is, someone like Tunceli could be handed an institutional advantage in that there's not a lot of worry anyone else on that list would take witness points from him, whereas there are arguable ways that everyone there loses attorney points.

                      And I think an underestimated factor here is going to be the one advisor that each competitor chooses to bring. Will the ones from top programs bring their AMTA board coaches (Stebbins-Warihay, Roytman-Bluebond, etc...) or will the advisors primarily be other competitors?
                      If it helps at all, I'm competing at Trial by Combat and will be bringing a teammate as my advisor. A few other competitors I've spoken with are at least doing the same thing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Which competitor are you? And which have you spoken to? I imagine most will be bringing fellow competitors

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm betting on a Sommers v Ramos final round, with Kleynman as the dark horse competitor who will surprise any of the top folks that made the cut.

                          I have no idea who wins a round between Sommers and Ramos. Both are skilled advocates, both have competed against each other plenty, and both know how to push the other's buttons. Even if it's not the final round, if this matchup happens at all during the weekend, it's going to be the one to watch.

                          Another really good round, or set of rounds, to watch would be any iteration of Sommers v Kunkel v Stebbins -- three of the most skilled female competitors AMTA has seen in recent memory duking it out one on one.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The field is set -- and it's pretty fantastic. There are a lot of ways to measure their excellence, but here is an easy one: This group will arrive at Drexel with an average of more than one All-American Award per person.
                            1. Deisy Abarca-Espiritu, University of Rochester
                            2. Elizabeth Bays, Yale University
                            3. Christopher Grant, Northwood University
                            4. Kaitlyn Harper, Northern Illinois University
                            5. Stephen Johnson, University of Cincinnati
                            6. Mike Kleynman, Rutgers University
                            7. Danielle Kunkel, Miami University
                            8. Dylan McAuley, University of Richmond
                            9. Nick Ramos, New York University
                            10. Eric Roytman, The Ohio State University
                            11. Jack Seigenthaler, Stanford University
                            12. Rachel Sommers, Columbia University
                            13. Zeke Starr, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
                            14. Sarah Stebbins, Georgia Institute of Technology
                            15. Enrico Trevisani, University of Arizona
                            16. Deniz Tunceli, University of Virginia

                            What criteria did you use to select the 16 competitors? (email question)
                            We wanted the best 16 competitors in the country.

                            Of course, thatís tricky for several reasons. (1) Finances, schedule, and geography may prevent some outstanding competitors from applying or accepting. (2) As much as we want the top 16 students, we also want 16 different schools. That reduces pairing conflicts, potential gamesmanship, etc. Ė and we think itís more fun if 16 different schools are represented. As a result, some excellent students were not accepted because we accepted their teammates.

                            But the hardest challenge (3) is simply differentiating among the very best students. To do that, we considered individual awards, team results, recommendations, video, and live performances. I personally watched parts of more than a dozen trials at Nationals in Minneapolis, which gave me an opportunity to observe performances from 15 applicants. But even then, it was splitting hairs. There are obviously more than 16 incredible competitors across the country. Ultimately, we could have filled another 16-person field with All-Americans, ORCS award winners, and attorneys from top-ten Nationals teams.

                            What about diversity? (paraphrasing several questions in another thread and via email)
                            Diversity is important to us, and I'm proud that the 16 competitors in our inaugural class are very diverse, ówhether judged by gender, ethnicity, geography, or orientation. Next year, I do hope more than 6 of the 16 advocates are female, but this yearís numbers result from acceptances, not invitations: we invited 10 men and 12 women. I expect those numbers to even out over time (for example, at Gladiator, my high school version of Trial by Combat, more than 50% of the 112 competitors have been female).

                            All of your people competed at nationals, this year or before -- were the rest of us disqualified? there are a lot of excellent attorneys whose teams couldn't get to nationals and it seems unfair to discriminate. (email question)
                            I believe that, yes, every one of our competitors has competed at the National Championship Tournament. That was not a requirement. But it's easier to conclude that a student is able to compete among the very when she already has. I am sure that over time we will include students who have never reached Nationals, but I am also sure that will be the exception, not the norm.

                            It looks like everyone you selected is a junior or senior. Was that a requirement? (email question)
                            Yes, all 16 are juniors and seniors. That was not a requirement. But it is difficult for an underclassman to earn the credentials of the students we selected.


                            What about [insert team]?
                            I received a number of questions asking why certain teams are not represented. My policy is not to comment on why we did or did not select specific students, but there are several outstanding schools whose students did not apply (or whose best students did not apply) and in six instances we made an offer but, for scheduling or financial reasons, the student was unable to accept.

                            Seems like you are biased against west coast teams.
                            Why no one from UCI? They finished #2 at Nationals.
                            Only one Californian???
                            Again, my policy is not to comment on why we did or did not select specific students, but I can say a few things here. First, congratulations to my beloved Anteaters and their excellent coach Emily Shaw on an incredible season! Youíve made this former Irvine coach very proud. Second, we did not get many applications from West Coast students, probably because of travel costs. Third, if you are going to cross-examine me on bias, know that the re-direct will mention that (1) Iíve lived most of my life in California, and (2) Iím a Berkeley grad who included a Stanford student.

                            Who is coaching each person? (asked by several)
                            Not every advocate has chosen her or his one coach. Once those selections are final, we will announce that. But from the list I've seen so far, the coaches are fantastic, too.

                            Who do you think is going to win? (also asked by multiple emails)
                            Iím obviously not going to answer that! (At least not publicly...) However, similar to when I ran the Beach Party tournament, I will run a predictions contest as Trial by Combat gets closer.



                            * * *

                            I still have a few more questions to answer about the rules, tournament materials, and other logistics, but I will save those for another day.
                            Last edited by Justin B.; May 3rd, 2018, 06:59 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Here are some questions I received via email (some are paraphrased).

                              What is the tournament schedule?
                              Will you release the tournament rules?
                              How do pairings work?
                              Here is a link to the Google Drive where we are placing all tournament information. It includes the Rulebook, Tournament Guide, and courtesy copy of the Federal Rules of Evidence. That's also where we will place the case materials once they are released.

                              I invite everyone to review the Rulebook any email me any questions or proposed changes by May 31. It'ís very similar to the Rulebook Ií've used at Gladiator for three years, but we are always looking to make improvements.

                              The Tournament Guide contains the schedule, key locations, and other logistical information.

                              What does the ballot look like?
                              There is a copy of the ballot at the end of the Rulebook. All scoring is head-to-head. Judges give one check mark per category.

                              Two comments about the ballot: First, we give credit to Baylor Law School, which created a similar ballot for Top Gun.

                              Second, I can answer the question I am sure we will receive: Why did you choose this ballot? We think this ballot facilitates the head-to-head scoring system at the heart of Trial by Combat; itís all about differentiation. This ballot also allows a single moment in trial to have greater impact: for example, I've seen exclusion of key evidence decide the categories for examinations, closings, objections, and improvisation. These high-stakes moments are realistic. And we know judges tend to prefer this ballot because it makes scoring much easier. The chief drawback is that our ballot doesnít capture margin of victory for a particular performance (If Anya narrowly wins opening, and Bonnie decisively wins closing, those victories are treated as equal). All told, though, we think the benefits are worth it.

                              Is the case civil or criminal?
                              Will you post teasers about the case?
                              No substantive information about the case will be revealed before Opening Ceremony on June 22.

                              Who is writing the case? How much experience does he/she/they have?
                              I am writing the case for Trial by Combat. Iíve been the primary author of eight mock trial cases and co-author of five others.

                              Since the case is only released 24 hours before the competition, will printed copies of the case be made available to competitors? Or should they expect to print them on their own?
                              We will provide competitors with printed copies of the case at Opening Ceremony and an electronic copy of the case immediately thereafter.
                              Last edited by Justin B.; May 7th, 2018, 08:12 AM.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X