SDSU mock trial team off to a solid start

by Nicole Menges, Staff Writer

Prior to the start of fall semester, San Diego State hadn’t had an active mock trial team in quite some time. Sophomores Megan Hanson, Connor Hume and Kat Hapske all worked to change that.

After going through the process to make the club official, they had three weeks to build their competition team and raise the money to compete in a regional competition on the weekend of Feb. 27.

Mock trial is an imitation of lower court proceedings where the participants act as attorneys and witnesses against other colleges.

The teams compete in front of real juries, have opening and closing arguments and try to recreate a real courtroom proceeding as accurately as possible.

The team is given a case to study, and the members assign witnesses and attorneys to both the defense side and the prosecution side. Next, they practice arguing the case until the competition.

Within the SDSU mock trial student organization is a mock trial team — a traveling competition group for which students must try out.

Because of a strict timeline, SDSU’s team had to be assembled quickly for the regional competition.

Hanson, an applied communications major and the team’s treasurer, was one of the first officers for the mock trial club. She joined after Hume, a political science major and the team’s president, presented the idea to the SDSU Pre-Law Society.

“Since then, we’ve just been working,” Hanson said. “We’re completely self-funded, and we paid for competition dues, hotels, food, transportation — everything through fundraising. It was Kat, Connor and I that worked to be successful in starting the club.”

To prepare, the students learn from attorney coaches from the public defender’s office, the district attorney’s office and a retired district attorney who is also a SDSU professor. The team meets with its coaches every Thursday and reviews a case. They look at witness statements and practice direct and cross-examinations. Also, the team studies courtroom proceedings, such as how to make an objection and how to talk to a judge.

“There are some things that you can’t say to a judge that you would never expect,” Hanson said, “To me it was fascinating because I had never done it before.”

The team is excited to return from the Southern California regional competition, where it placed in the top 20. Hume is very content with how well their performance went in their first competition.

“We finished above schools who have had this program in their school for years already, and some even have it as classes,” Hume said.

Hanson added that the eight students out of the 11-person team had never done a mock trial before.

The students involved in mock trial come from various backgrounds. Most of the participants want to go to law school. However, some of the students join simply because they enjoy the acting portion of mock trial and taking on a different character.

“If you’re interested in law and want to go to law school, nothing is going to look better than this on your resume,” Hume said. “Especially if you’re on the fence about it — once you do it, you’ll know for sure if law is for you.”

Looking forward, the team is starting the process of establishing a student advocacy program on campus. The members of the student advocacy program would act as public defenders for students going through the campus judiciary process.

“Student advocacy would be for people who care a lot about the school and care a lot about the students and want to help them out,” Hume said.

The SDSU Pre-Law Society and mock trial team are also working together to build the pre-law community on campus.

“There aren’t a lot of resources for pre-law students at our school, so we’re working with a few different people right now to grow that atmosphere and that community,” Hanson said. “We want pre-law students to be able to connect with each other and connect with area attorneys.”