Haverford’s Mock Trial team is a relatively new addition to campus—it was co-founded by Nick Barile ’18 and Jordan McGuffee ’18 in October 2014—but has grown remarkably in both talent and size in barely more than a year. The team competes in the collegiate American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), which administers a league of over 600 teams that come from small liberal arts colleges, large universities, and everything in between. The Fords have been hard at work this winter competing in tournaments at the University of Pennsylvania, Monmouth University, and University of California—Berkeley. Since its first trial in November, the team has maintained an impressive ballot record of 12 wins, 6 losses, and 2 ties, placing Haverford in a strong position as it prepares for AMTA’s Regional tournament in February.
At UPenn’s Quaker Classic in November, Haverford finished 15th out of a competitive field of 44 teams, with wins over the University of Iowa and Fordham University, a split ballot with Johns Hopkins, and a loss to eventual tournament winner UNC Chapel Hill. “Those were crucial moments for our development as a team,” notes Barile, one of Haverford’s attorneys and captains. “We realized that we have the talent to beat large universities that dwarf us when it comes to school size and resources. AMTA isn’t like the NCAA where you’re put in a division of similarly-sized schools. We could be playing Florida State in one trial and Yale in the next.”
The next month, Haverford hit the beaches of the Jersey Shore for Monmouth University’s Hawk Invitational. The team nearly posted an undefeated record, losing only one ballot (each trial has two) over the course of the tournament thanks to victories over Seton Hall University, Dickinson College, and St. John’s University. This propelled Haverford to a second-place finish in the tournament.
After the team’s success at Monmouth, its captains and Career Services Pre-Law Advisor (and official team sponsor) Jennifer Barr opted to add an unplanned third invitational to this year’s schedule, securing them a spot in UC Berkeley’s January tournament. Seven team members jetted off for the considerably warmer and drier California skies, barely escaping the East Coast blizzard that cancelled thousands of weekend flights. After a day spent exploring San Francisco (and multiple trips to In-N-Out Burger), Haverford opened the tournament with the option to “challenge” any team in the field for the initial round. It opted for UCLA, a West Coat powerhouse and 2014 national champion. A nail-biting and exceptionally close trial ended with UCLA edging out Haverford by only a single point. In the remainder of the California tournament, Haverford posted a two-point win over Pomona before falling by the same margin to Brown. But the team closed out the weekend with a 17-point sweep over UC Davis, which sent team members back to campus happy on that night’s redeye flight.
This year’s case, administered nationwide by the American Mock Trial Association at every tournament, features two individuals accused of bribery over a casino license. Teams choose which defendant they wish to prosecute just before trial begins, while opponents must present a reactive defense based on the defendant that the prosecution chooses to pursue.
Team co-founders Barile and McGuffee are joined by Eli Cain ’18 in acting as both Haverford’s prosecutors and defense attorneys. During the mock trials they call three witnesses for the prosecution: Drew Evans ’19, an undercover police informant; Nicholas Munves ’18, a forensic scientist; and Liv Phillips BMC ’19, a character witness and step-sibling to one of the defendants.
On defense, Haverford uses the same members in different witness roles. Evans portrays either a bellhop or poker dealer, depending on what charge the State pursues and which witnesses are called by their prosecutors. Phillips takes on the role of an expert in police conduct, while Munves plays the defense version of the informant. Isabella Canelo-Gordon ’18, Haverford’s “designated defendant,” plays either individual depending on who the State chooses to prosecute. Jeff Monhait ’09, an associate at Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor, serves as Haverford’s attorney-coach.
“It really is one of the most beneficial activities I’ve ever done,” says McGuffee. “Not only do we gain experience in speaking and critical thinking, but we get to jump into the field of law.”
Haverford’s team is currently prepping for Regionals, which are being held on Feb. 27 and 28 at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Md.. That tournament affords the team the chance to advance to AMTA’s opening round national championship series.
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