This was FIU’s first appearance at NTC and we missed the championship by a single judge’s vote.
3L FIU Trial Team members NATALIE OYARZUN, ANNASOFIA A. ROIG, and JACKSON SHUFORD led the way, defeating FSU and Nova in the preliminary rounds, then taking down the University of Georgia before confronting Emory in the finals.
Mr. Shuford was our “swing” advocate, representing both the prosecution and defense. Ms. Oyarzun paired with Mr. Shuford to speak for the defendant. Ms. Roig, our Trial Team President and inaugural Tomas F. Gamba Trial Advocacy Scholarship recipient, joined Mr. Shuford to prosecute on behalf of the state.
Our second squad competing at NTC – 3Ls MICHAEL ROJAS and DAVID VILLALOBOS – also performed magnificently, soundly defeating Georgia State before ultimately falling to Stetson, the competition’s other regional champion.
Administered by TYLA – the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association – the National Trial Competition attracts teams from more than 140 law schools and involves more than 1,000 law students competing in 15 regions across the country. In each region, the top 2 teams are crowned winners and move on to the national finals in San Antonio in March.
In our ever-tough Florida region, a total of 24 teams came to Tallahassee to complete. Joining Florida law schools Barry, Nova, Florida Coastal, UF, FSU, and Stetson were teams from Emory, Mercer, the University of Georgia, Georgia State, and Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.
The NTC case file presented the complex prosecution of a defendant accused of negligent vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy, causing the roll-over crash of an SUV that took the lives of her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s young daughter.
Our TYLA lead coach was Professor H. Scott Fingerhut, Assistant Director of the Trial Advocacy Program. “There really isn’t much to say about these students except that they are true warrior-poets, and not much more to say to them for all they’ve done except, ‘thank you,’” Professor Fingerhut said. “Professor H.T. Smith, the Director of our Program, and I could not be prouder of each of them, for they embody perfectly the FIU Trial Team Way, and are, indeed, the principle in our polestar, Passionate Principled Advocacy.”
Professor Fingerhut was assisted coaching the TYLA team by some extraordinary trial lawyers themselves, including Ariel Lett, managing attorney at Lett Law in Miami; Kellie Peterson, Chief Assistant at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, 3rd Region; Justin James Duran (COL ’18), a former FIU Trial Team champion and an Assistant Public Defender here in Miami; and Ari S. Goldberg (COL ’12), trial counsel with Meltzer & Bell, P.A., in West Palm Beach, who also serves as an adjunct professor for our Program in Trial Advocacy.
Our TYLA students’ work began in December to bring home this extraordinary result — all through the holidays and on into the spring semester — weekdays, weekday evenings, and all weekend long, spending hundreds of hours dedicating themselves to the craft of Trial Advocacy, to our College of Law and our Trial Team, and, in the end, to one another.