Most college students would have to be subpoenaed to show up to court, but a team of Shippensburg University students go voluntarily.
Members of the Robbie Oberly Mock Trial team recently competed at The Sixth Annual Blue Jay Invitational at Elizabethtown College.
The team’s namesake comes from a previous member of the team, who passed away after a battle with brain cancer while in law school. Previous adviser Stephanie Jirard named the team in his honor.
Each year, the team is assigned a case, either criminal or civil, by the American Mock Trial Association. This year’s case is criminal, according to junior Naschia Brice, the president of the team.
Brice said the team reviews the case information and divides into two subteams: prosecution and defense.
Students transform into lawyers and witnesses, learning the case inside and out.
Senior Darius Tademy serves as the vice president for the team. He explained how the team practices and prepares for competitions and scrimmages, “Everyone learns their part and then we go against each other for the experience,” he said.
Once at the competition, the students are not allowed to wear apparel that connects them to the school they are representing to avoid any potential bias, according to Brice.
After countless hours of practice, students argue their side of the case in front of law students and practicing attorneys who act as judges at competitions or scrimmages. The judges provide feedback to the teams and cast ballots determining the winners.
“It’s really cool going to scrimmage and seeing how other teams prepared,” Tademy said. “In the moment it’s frustrating, but after, it’s a new perspective.”
At its most recent scrimmage in Elizabethtown, the team competed against Gettysburg College, Franklin and Marshall College and Susquehanna University.
The team collectively won two out of four rounds of competition. Brice won the top witness award and sophomore team member Monae Bullock won the overall excellence award.
The team will participate in three scrimmages before it heads to compete at the regional competition at American University in February.
“This is one of Shippensburg’s best teams in a long time,” Tademy said.
Despite many members of the team being new, they carried their own very well, Brice said.
The team is comprised of 11 students from various majors, with 10 students on the official roster.
The current competition team is set, but students interested in joining are welcome to learn the case, Tademy said.
While Mock Trial is a team sport, the individual is extremely important to the outcome of each team’s performance.
Tademy said the team comes together as they prepare and build the case prior to competition day. However, at the competition, it is up to the individual to perform.
“You are the only one who can direct the witness… once you’re in that moment, it’s only you,” Tademy said.
The team’s adviser, James Greenburg, an SU political science professor, praised the students for their teamwork and ability to “think on their feet.”
“The teamwork among the Mock Trial students is some of the best I have seen. Each member is valued for the strengths they bring to the team and feels comfortable in contributing those strengths,” Greenburg said.
“This has been an opportunity to work with some of our best and most dedicated students at Ship and to learn more and further appreciate the essential importance of the roles they will be taking on in the legal procession in the not too distant future,” he added.
Tademy, who hopes to become a prosecutor or district attorney, said he participates in Mock Trial for the experience.
“You get an inside look — there is no difference between what we do at a competition and what they do in a courtroom,” he said.
Brice, a criminal justice major with a minor in political science, wants to pursue law after graduation.
“I want to be a defense attorney and it [Mock Trial] gives me the real-life experience of how a courtroom is going to be,” Brice said.
Experience in law and the courtroom is not the only thing students say they gain through Mock Trial.
Brice, Bullock and Tademy spoke of the confidence they gained through participating in Mock Trial.
“I wanted to try something new,” said Bullock. “Sometimes it makes me think about changing my major. It is definitely a confidence booster.”
Brice believes that the experience will give her an upper hand when she attends law school.
She hopes to see Shippensburg host its own scrimmage to promote the sport.
“We can bring awareness and support,” she said.
The team will continue preparing for the regional competition held at American University in Washington, D.C. in February.