Student attorneys from twelve law schools competed in the regional rounds of the National Trial Competition on February 9-11, 2018, at the Cass County Courthouse in Fargo, North Dakota. The competitors represented law schools from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The National Trial Competition was established in 1975 to encourage and strengthen the advocacy skills of law students through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar. The program is co-sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Texas Young Lawyers Association.
For the first time in its history, the competition was held in North Dakota. The competition was co-hosted by the University of North Dakota School of Law and the State Bar Association of North Dakota. Attorneys Aubrey Zuger and Lori Conroy served as tournament directors, with assistance from attorneys Michael Sly, Ohnstad Twichell; Sharon Thompson, Circling Eagle Law; and Mary Batcheller, a United States Bankruptcy Court Judicial Clerk, who recruited and organized the witnesses for the competition. University of North Dakota School of Law Professor Denitsa Mavrova Heinrich served as coach of UND's competing teams.
East Central Judicial District Court Presiding Judge Frank Racek, Cass County Administrator Robert Wilson, the Cass County Sheriff's Department, and Clerk of Court Lindsey Scheel facilitated the use of the Cass County Courthouse. This cooperation was critical as the competition requires a building with the capacity to hold twelve trials at one time.
Nearly one-hundred attorneys and judges volunteered as presiding and scoring judges for the competition. Many others volunteered to help as bailiffs and witnesses. Undergraduate students, law students, and community members filled in for the remaining roles of witnesses. In all, the competition required the help of nearly 400 volunteers.
Each of the 24 teams competed in three preliminary rounds. Points from the three preliminary rounds were used to determine the top eight teams that advanced to the semi-final rounds. The University of North Dakota School of Law competed well and advanced one team into the top eight.
The final rounds featured the University of Minnesota Law School against the University of Iowa College of Law, while the University of Iowa's second team took on the University of Kansas School of Law. The winners of both trials, the University of Minnesota Law School and the University of Kansas School of Law, will advance to the National Trial Competition in Austin, Texas, which will take place on April 4 - 8, 2018.
The presiding judges in the final trials were Justice Lisa Fair McEvers, North Dakota Supreme Court, and Judge Ralph R. Erickson, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The scoring judges were the justices of the North Dakota Supreme Court, along with United States Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal and United States Magistrate Judge (Retired) Karen Klein.
|Justices Jensen and Tufte, along with United States Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal, listen to the student attorneys in the final round of the Regional Trial Competition.|
|Justice Lisa Fair McEvers, North Dakota Supreme Court, presides over one of the final trials at the Regional Trial Competition.|
|Jordan Weir, attorney with the Vogel Law Firm, undergoes cross-examination while playing the role of the expert witness in the final round of the Regional Trial Competition.|
|Judge Ralph R. Erickson, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, presides over one of the final trials at the Regional Trial Competition, while attorney James Grossman, Nilles Law Firm, plays the role of an expert witness. Cecilia Knapp, Assistant Clay County Attorney, serves as a bailiff.|
|Attorney Michael Sly, Ohnstad Twichell, plays the role of an expert witness during the final round of the Regional Trial Competition.|
Photos by Rob Carolin
February 14, 2018