February 26, 2021 | News
Bedell Memorial Mock Trial Competition Goes Virtual
One of the Trial Lawyers Section’s most cherished traditions, the Chester Bedell Memorial Mock Trial Competition, continued virtually despite a surging COVID-19 pandemic.
Section Chair Wiley Hicks says the January 2021 competition owes its existence to the determination, hard work and creativity of section members, the generosity of state and federal judges who volunteered to participate — and the generosity of a Tampa legal services firm, Trial Exhibits, Inc., that furnished the technology needed to compete virtually.
“I think almost everybody universally wants the courts to go back to normal when it comes to jury trials,” Hicks acknowledges. “But we could not have done this in person.”
The virtual event marks the first time the Chester Bedell competition has been conducted virtually, but other states have blazed a trail, Hicks said.
“I know that the regional and national competitions have all been conducted virtually, probably for the last six months or so, so we had a template to work from,” he said.
STETSON TAKES HOME THE TROPHY
For the 25th time in the history of the Competition, Students from Stetson University College of Law took home the first-place trophy with the team from St. Thomas University College of Law finishing second.
Stetson’s winning team was composed of Lauren Cleveland, Hilary Hazeltine, Tyler Hillier, Bryan Lawlor, Jasmine Mattear, Alicia Roddenberg, Samantha Simmons, Magner Tiuso. Lindsay Sweeley, Jennifer Deleon, Patricija Gegznaite, and Valeria Alvarez served as counsel for St. Thomas in the final round.
Alicia Roddenberg from Stetson University College of Law was named as this year’s “Best Advocate.”
Students from seven Florida law schools, divided into 14 teams, vied for the top honor in what is known as the “Super Bowl” of Florida mock trial competitions.
In addition to Stetson, University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida International University, Florida A&M University, Thomas M. Colley Law School, and St. Thomas University Colleges of Law fielded impressive teams in this prestigious annual event that helps students develop the skills needed for trial practice after graduation.
VIRTUAL HAS ADVANTAGES
Judges were easier to recruit because they didn’t have to invest travel time. And students got to hone their skills in virtual jurisprudence, Hicks said.
“Students from some of the larger schools may have already competed virtually, but some students likely performed in a virtual courtroom for the first time,” Hicks said.
Virtual platforms have proven so efficient for the most routine legal proceedings that they will be the wave of the future, Hicks said.
“I don’t think there are going to be these cattle call motion calendars anymore,” he said. “It saves an immense amount of time, especially in places like Miami, where the commute can be 30 minutes to an hour both ways.”
Hicks said he’s relieved that the health crisis didn’t force a cancellation.
“We’re happy that we were able to attract seven schools, and for those students who are seniors, this was their last chance to compete,” he said.
For more information or to see a list of past winners, visit the Mock Trial Competition.