MACON – In remarkable fashion, a mock trial team at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law captured first place in the American Bar Association’s National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition, defeating Harvard and the University of Houston law schools in the semifinals and finals respectively. In addition, third-year Mercer law student Katie Powers was crowned the competition’s “Best Advocate” and “Best Cross-Examiner.” By winning the overall championship and individual honors, Mercer Law School took home the competition’s three most coveted awards.
The elite invitation-only competition included 20 law schools from across the nation, among them Harvard, Georgetown, Tulane, Arizona State, and William and Mary. Mercer was the only Georgia law school invited to participate. The competition was held April 2 – 4 at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Faced with a fictitious trial involving a case of a judge accused of driving under the influence, Mercer defeated St. John’s, John Marshall and the University of Maryland law schools before facing Harvard Law School in the semifinals. In a three-out-of-four ballot vote, Mercer defeated Harvard and then faced the University of Houston in the finals. Arguing for the defense, Mercer triumphed over Houston in another three-out-of-four vote. The championship win earns Mercer Law School an automatic invitation to next year’s competition.
The four-member mock trial team consisted of Powers and law student Cayce Myers, who both served as attorneys in the case, and students Joan McCallum and Michael Lyles, who both served as witnesses in the case. Rudjard Hayes, a seasoned trial attorney, coached the team.
“It feels great,” Powers said of the team victory. “We were all kind of shocked at first. It was a long three days, and we are honored that they decided to name us the winners. It further establishes how dominant Mercer Law School can be.”
Of winning both “Best Advocate” and “Best Cross-Examiner” awards, Powers said: “That was the cherry on top. The team win was obviously the biggest.”
Hayes, who also coached another Mercer mock trial team this spring that made it to the regional finals, called the ABA victory “phenomenal.”
“They beat some of the true powerhouses in mock trial advocacy,” Hayes said. “At times, it was like David and Goliath. So this victory speaks volumes to the caliber of Mercer Law School and its students. Mercer can compete on a national level in any advocacy program.”
The mock trial victory further solidifies Mercer Law School’s strong academic program in trial advocacy under the direction of Professor Deryl Dantzler, who holds the Tommy Malone Distinguished Chair in Trial Advocacy. For over 20 years, Mercer Law School has trained criminal defense lawyers in trial advocacy skills as the home of the National Criminal Defense College.
A recent $1 million gift to Mercer Law School by alumnus Tommy Malone established the distinguished chair that bears his name and helps support Mercer’s mock trial advocacy program. Malone, founder of Malone Law Office in Atlanta and listed among the “Best Lawyers in America,” is a member of Mercer University’s Board of Trustees.
“This victory is a wonderful recognition of Mercer’s commitment to preparing students for the advocacy skills of a lawyer,” said Mercer Law School Dean Daisy Hurst Floyd. “Winning the ABA competition is a product of the hard work, talent, and commitment of our students and faculty. I am tremendously proud of our team, its coach and everyone at Mercer Law School who helped prepare them.”
About Mercer Law School
The Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law is ranked among the Top 100 law schools in the United States, and its legal writing program is ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 ranking of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” The law school’s public interest law program was recently ranked No. 6 in the nation by preLaw Magazine. Founded in 1873, Mercer Law School is among the oldest in the nation. Its innovative Woodruff Curriculum – which focuses on ethics and practical skills amid small class sizes – earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association for its “depth of excellence.” With a total enrollment of about 400 students, taught by some of the sharpest legal minds in the country, Mercer Law School is recognized as one of the nation’s best. For more information about Mercer Law School, visit our Web site at www.law.mercer.edu or call (478) 301-5000.