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Learning to Litigate

Two-hundred mock trial competitors from 17 colleges and universities competed in the 11th Big Red Invitational Classic in January.

The event was organized by the Cornell University Mock Trial Association, which includes 13 ILR students and is advised by Thomas Golden, associate director of ILR’s Employment and Disability Institute.

According to association member Robert Puzio ’17, the fictional court case argued in Ives and Myron Taylor halls was judged by local lawyers and Cornell Law School professors, alumni and students.

The Cornell “mockers” included students from across campus and many are from ILR. In addition to Puzio, ILR members include Laura Bach ’16, Emily Miller ’15, Amber Aspinall ’17, Heylee Bernstein ’15, Laura Brigham ’18, Isabel Gabaldon ’18, Zach Goldman ’18, Alexis Leonard ’16, Isabela Motta ’18, Jimmy Pinchak ’18, Emily Sharp-O'Connor ’18 and Lee Usiskin ’18.

The American Mock Trial Association annually provides a fictional court case to more than 550 teams in the United States.

Teams create both prosecution and defense sides to the case. Acting as attorneys and as witnesses, students compete against other schools by delivering statements, providing testimony and persuading judges of their side of the case.

Judges score teams on delivery, performance and arguments.

At the January Cornell event, teams needed to be prepared for contingencies in Park v. Duran, a fictional civil case that involves two children and results in one child's death.

The shooting took place at Sydney Park's house. The Park family owned the firearm and stored it in their house. The children were playing with the gun when it fired and caused Sydney Park's death. The plaintiff alleges that the other child, Jesse Duran, was the shooter.

The plaintiff can choose to pursue one of two counts -- intentional shooting or negligent parental supervision. For both cases, the defendant was Jesse's father, Hayden, legally responsible for his child's actions.

In addition to Cornell, colleges sending one or more teams to the Big Red Invitational are:

  • American University
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • University of Chicago
  • Fordham College
  • George Washington University
  • Hamilton College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Princeton University
  • University of Rochester
  • St. Bonaventure University
  • Yale University