Mock Trial is an academic competition in which students are provided a case packet, including facts, the law, evidentiary and procedural rules. The students prepare a full jury trial presentation, based on that packet. Competitions include schools from all levels, without divisions or distinction, other than geographic region, and are open to all colleges and universities registering with the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) each year.
Mock trial competitions consist of four competition rounds, two rounds as the Plaintiff (or Prosecution) and two rounds as the Defense. This means that the teams prepare to present both sides of a case, and will present each side twice at each competition. Cases alternate each year from criminal cases (usually in academic years that start in an odd year) and civil cases (usually in academic years starting in even years) so that students have a chance to learn how to prepare for trial from both the criminal and civil sides.
Each round consists of a “full trial” in which the Plaintiff/Prosecution and Defense fully present their case including an Opening Statement from both sides, three witnesses from both sides, and a Closing Argument from both sides. Competition rounds take about three hours, and are strictly timed. Three students on each team act as the attorneys, and three students act as the witnesses, along with a timer. Attorneys and witnesses may be an attorney for one side and a witness for the other side. For example, a Plaintiff’s attorney could also portray the main Defense witness, because the team only presents one side of the case in a given round. However, one student cannot be both an attorney and a witness for the same side in the same round.
Teams consist of 6-10 students. The rounds are scored on a 140 point scale with each “component” receiving a score of 1-10, and there are two judges in each round with independent scoring ballots. Each round could come out: 2-0, 0-2, 1-1, or even could have ties on the score. Teams who win the most ballots win the competitions.
Students are scored on presentation ability, command of the information and the law, and their credibility and overall performance. Along with winning the ballots, students are ranked for their individual performance as attorneys and witnesses, and can earn up to 20 points in a given role. Students earning enough points through their ranks can earn individual awards as outstanding attorneys and outstanding witnesses, which often requires a “rank” of 17/20.
Officially, AMTA holds a series of Regional competitions each February. These are open to all registered teams, which currently consists of around 650 teams. Each regional consists of about 24 teams. From that group the top 180-190 teams (usually the top 6 or 7 at each regional) move on to the first National level tournament called the “Opening Round Championships” in March. From that group the top 50 (or so) teams move on to the final AMTA Nationals competition in April.
Prior to the official AMTA competition season, there are dozens of invitational tournaments held all across the country where teams compete to practice and earn awards. Invitationals can be as small as 10 teams and as large as 50+, though most are around 20 teams.
Any one interested in more information should contact the team’s coach at firstname.lastname@example.org.