Duquesne University builds mock trial program

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Two years ago, a team of four law students from Duquesne University participated in a mock trial court competition at the University of Maryland. It was the first time that Duquesne sent a team to the national event, and some other attendees "couldn't even pronounce our name," said Amelia Michele Joiner, an assistant law professor and coach of the team.

Despite the fact that the low-profile school from Pittsburgh was a newbie at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Tournament of Champions in 2008, it won, and earned the privilege of hosting the 2010 competition.

"That first year we were honored just to be invited," said Ms. Joiner. "It's the most prestigious trial competition in the country."

This year's event was held Wednesday through Saturday with law students from Syracuse University, Temple University, Baylor University, the University of Wisconsin and other schools invited to participate in moot trials at the U.S. District Federal Courthouse, Downtown.

Approximately 150 local judges and attorneys served as jurors and judges for the competition.

All the teams received details of the same case six to eight weeks ago and spent "hours on end" preparing for the competition, which included making opening statements, direct and cross examination, evidentiary issues, motions and closing statements before the jury, said Ms. Joiner.

This year's case was a product liability matter, in which the plaintiff was injured by an allegedly defective piece of farming equipment. The trial centered on whether the equipment manufacturer should be held liable for the plaintiff's injury.

Though Duquesne wasn't invited to compete in the National Institute for Trial Advocacy's tournament until two years ago, the university has been building its competitive mock trial program for about a decade, Ms. Joiner said.

"We have been quietly winning competitions and getting a reputation for trial advocacy. This is one of the best things that could happen to our law school," she said. "It casts us in a good light and lets people see the excellent work being done at Duquesne and the excellent students leaving this school who are the trial lawyers of the future."

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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