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UC Law Trial Practice Team victorious in mock trial competition

Students won first place overall, best attorney, best witness

A University of Cincinnnati College of Law team scored a big victory in Columbus last month. On Nov. 15, the Law Trial Practice Team from UC College of Law took first place in the Ohio Attorney General's Public Service Mock Trial competition. The competition draws teams from across the state of Ohio, and is judged by experienced litigators as well as federal and state judges.

The winning team included Spencer Campbell, Norbert Wessels, Cecelia Tio and Stephen Johnson.

Campbell and Wessels also won "Best Attorney" in their respective rounds, while Tio and Johnson won "Best Witness". The team was coached by Bart Cosgrove and Lisa Treleven from the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Wessels pointed to their guidance as a huge factor in the team's success. "Their experience gives them the ability to recognize the pitfalls of certain arguments, and which issues were worth focusing on- that was a really, really big help to us," said Wessels.

Four students smiling and holding plaques

OAG Mock Trial Champions Stephen Johnson, Spencer Campbell, Norbert Wessels, and Cecelia Tio

Law students try out for the Trial Practice Team in the spring of their first year, and take the law practice course the following fall. The practice course is taught by Professor Marjorie Aaron, director of the Center for Practice, along with adjunct professors Bill Markovits and Bill Blessing.

Having three professors in a class of 12 students allows plenty of individual attention, which Aaron described as an opportunity for the students to take their unique individual style and develop it in order to communicate more effectively.

"We have an established and wonderful relationship with the College Conservatory of Music," said Aaron. "CCM Professor D'Arcy Smith and his MFA graduate students from CCM and London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama offer our students actors' expertise on using voice and gestures to present more effectively."

During the trial practice course, students are broken into smaller groups and videotaped, so that they and their professors can review their "performance" and identify areas for improvement. The course culminates with the team's first mock trial competition, which is usually the Case Classic, hosted by the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

"Students who graduate and become prosecutors or public defenders will be thrown into the courtroom very quickly, and these students are well prepared to do that," said Aaron. "If they are working in other roles, the knowledge they build about how a case is put together, the whole that the various peices need to form, is important for every attorney."

"You can read about how to put something into evidence or direct a client, but when you are actually there and there is a real witness in front of you who may be upset, and a real attorney raising objections on the other side, it's a whole different ballgame" said Wessels, who has trial experience working with the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic Clinic. 'Without trial practice, it would be shell shock."

The Trial Practice Team also competed in the Case Classic Nov. 16. Raika Casey, Ariel Shuster, Vincent Walker, Mallory Reed, Sarah Ochieng, Jacob Harrod, Samantha Rhodes, Wynn Horton, Dee Hambrick and Tanner Hesterberg tried their cases masterfully and made their professors and coaches proud.

The team will next compete in the John L. Costello National Criminal Law Trial Advocacy Competition in January, and the regional rounds of the Texas Young Lawyer's Association Regional Competition in February, and of the American Association for Justice - Student Trial Advocacy Competition in March.

"Of course, we are aiming for some regional wins and more competition at the national level after that," said Aaron.