Going an unprecedented 6-0 and finishing top-ranked after the preliminary rounds at Trials and Tribulations III, the FIU College of Law Trial Team went on to earn tournament quarter-finalist stripes, while also taking home awards for most professional team, best overall preliminary advocate, and outstanding preliminary advocate.
FIU was led by veteran swing-advocates Victoria Thacker, Trial Team president and team captain, and Evan Thomas, team vice-president.
Essential team support was provided by double-witnesses Jonathan A. González and Rebeckah B. Wise, and solo witnesses Alisha Hurdle Honoré and Shea Kleinman, making his first appearance for FIU.
Hosted by the University of South Carolina School of Law, Trials and Tribulations is unique in that it is the only national mock trial competition featuring three parties at trial: plaintiff and two defendants. This year’s case was a negligence action brought by an injured automobile passenger against their allegedly intoxicated driver and the bar that allegedly over-served him.
Pictured: In the foreground, FIU Law Trial Team swing-advocates Victoria Thacker and Evan Thomas. In the back row, Coach Elroy M John, Jr. and witnesses Alisha Hurdle Honoré and Shea Kleinman. Not pictured: Double-witnesses Jonathan A. González and Rebekah B. Wise
The competition consisted of 18 schools split into two divisions with nine teams apiece, each competing in six preliminary trials: no other mock trial tournament has more than three preliminary rounds.
FIU went undefeated in the preliminaries, 6-0, representing plaintiff and each defendant twice, and reigned as division champs — the only undefeated team in the competition — prevailing over Emory, Pacific McGeorge, South Dakota, and Cumberland, ranked fifth in the nation, Quinnipiac, ranked 11th, and South Texas, defending Trials and Tribulations champion and number six in the national rankings.
After the preliminary rounds, FIU was power-ranked first going into the seventh and penultimate round. The team fought like champions before falling to Fordham, the number two ranked team in the country, and Illinois-Chicago, ultimate Trials and Tribulations runner-up.
Mr. Thomas was recognized as best overall advocate, and Ms. Thacker as outstanding advocate, both for the preliminary rounds.
And FIU was awarded the tournament’s most professional team.
These significant accomplishments follow on the heels of the Trial Team’s second consecutive AAJ Regional Championship last month, its second-place and quarter-final finishes at January’s Florida Bar Trial Lawyer Section Chester Bedell Memorial, last fall’s Georgetown National White Collar Crime Invitational, and the team’s first-ever Top 20 national ranking by both national ranking services.
Also competing at Trials and Tribulations were squads from St. John’s, Hofstra, Syracuse, Faulkner, UC Berkeley, Mercer, Baylor and Chicago Kent, both nationally- ranked 14th, and Houston, nationally-ranked 11th.
Our team began working to prepare for competition right as the spring semester began, in January, and concluded its successful run mid-March.
“This was a spectacularly challenging competition for us – the only one of its kind in the country, with three parties battling all at once, and a grueling trial schedule. For these reasons alone, our students’ achievement was really rather stunning,” said Professor H. Scott Fingerhut, Assistant Director of the Trial Advocacy Program and the team’s head coach. “Leaving South Carolina as Division Champion and tournament quarter-finalist is significant, to be sure, especially considering the wealth of law school talent invited to compete. But it is our recognition as most professional team, and our student best advocate awards, that stand out, that serve as the true testament to our students’ consistent commitment to excellence and razor-sharp advocacy, borne of equal parts passion and principle, our Trial Ad Program motto. We are FIU and we are rising.”
Our South Carolina team was coached by Professor Fingerhut along with former Trial Team captain and two-time champion Elroy M. John, Jr. (’17), along with another former team captain, and current Trial Advocacy adjunct professor, Ari S. Goldberg (’12), and, of course, Professor H.T. Smith, Founding Director of the FIU Law Trial Advocacy Program.
To learn more about Trial Ad at FIU and all that our program has to offer, call 305-348-8095 or visit law.fiu.edu/trialad.