By UTS teacher, Jonathan Bitidis ’99
The UTS Mock Trial team trained diligently during the fall in preparation for the Empire Competition in New York. The team earned the invitation - its second - as a result of having won the Ontario Bar Association Toronto tournament.
With feedback and input provided by our volunteer coaches (Tanya Lee P ’17, Jill Presser ’87, P’17, P’21, Kristin Ali ’99 and Justice Julie Thorburn P ’15, ’17), the students were primed and ready to take on the competition from all over the US and the world (seven countries in all).
And so it was that my colleague, Rebecca Levere, and I traveled with 14 students to New York City earlier this month. UTS was one of only a handful of international contingents competing in a field of more than 40 teams and over 700 "mockers". The competition was held in the impressive Brooklyn US District Courthouse – a quite stunning piece of architecture.
At an event like this, teams are given a fake case to try. The cases, (this year’s centred around an assassination attempt on fictional presidential candidate, Ronald Crump), consist of upwards of 30 pages of documents, including affidavits from witnesses who will be on trial. Each team must field a prosecution and a defence side consisting of four lawyers and three witnesses. Witnesses must be able to “inhabit” a character fully in order to be successfully examined and cross-examined without changing material facts of the case.
Our students were in fine form in each trial, securing two wins (and thus increasingly harder opponents) on the first day. In the end, however, while UTS was in the top 10 of our division, we did not place in the top 15 overall. Though the students were a little disappointed given their 6th place finish in the San Francisco competition last year, it was clear that the New York championship draws stiffer competition. More importantly, we learned a great deal about how to adapt our Canadian style to a US Competition, and how the ins and outs of US evidence law differ from our own. We're ready to take it to the next level next year. As Mock Trial president Benjamin oft tells the team: always forward, never backward!
The weekend was not all hard work. We had time to take in a show at Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, took a tour of Tower One, explored various neighbourhoods, (Chelsea Market, the Village, Central Park), and enjoyed a visits to the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park. We were even joined for dinner one evening by Canadian Consul General in New York, Phyllis Yaffe P ’99.
All in all it was a great trip: our students – from multiple grades – bonded together while competing against the best, meeting other students just as passionate as they are, and spending a good deal of time in one of the best cities in the world.
Photo: Empire Competition