Mock-Trial Competition prepares future attorneys for a world of changing public perceptions about criminal justice
October 14, 2015 | Updated: October 20, 2014
Update: Florida State took first place in this popular trial competition. For a full list of winners, visit CACJ.org.
In recent years, our nation has experienced some of the most high-profile civil rights and criminal justice issues of the decade. Incarceration rates have reached record highs; civil protests around police abuse have rocked cities; California voters have adopted a historic shift in sentences for low-level drug and property crimes. Overall, the public’s view on criminal justice is shifting.
Last week, Governor Jerry Brown stated, “We should pause and reflect on how our system of criminal justice could be more human, more just, and more cost-effective.” So what does this mean for the next generation of lawyers who will be working in the field?
This weekend, law students from around the country, with the help of local state and federal judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, will gather to hone their legal skills in one of the country’s only criminal law focused competitions. The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) and UC Hastings College of the Law will host the 7th Annual National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition; one of the most popular trial advocacy competitions in the Nation. This year more than 20 law schools are competing.
“CACJ’s annual Mock Trial is focused on criminal defense and may be one of the only ones like it in the country,” said Jeff Thoma, CACJ President. “One day, these students may be those that help shape 21st century criminal justice reform. They are coming into the field at a time where public perception is shifting from one of ‘tough-on-crime’ to ‘healing and rehabilitation.’”
“These students are preparing to enter a practice at a time when reliance on technology, by law enforcement and the defense, has grown exponentially and the role of race in the criminal justice system is receiving greater scrutiny,” said CACJ’s Mock-Trial Committee Co-Chair, Julie Traun. “CACJ’s trial competition provides a real life experience which permits students to understand the critical role they will play in the 21st century criminal justice system.”
This year’s nearly 100 participants include students from throughout the country; California law schools are well represented as well as law schools from the east, south, northwest and midwest. This year’s four-day event focuses on multiple criminal law issues, including race, eyewitness identification, police practices and ballistics; the competition will require each student team to handle the prosecution or defense based on a real homicide case.