Mock Trial team impresses in first tournament

By David Gulliver

In its first-ever competition, the New College Mock Trial Team competed successfully in the American Mock Trial Competition Regional Tournament, even scoring a victory against a team of law students from England. 

New College students prepare for a mock trial in the AMTA regional competition in Orlando.
Mock Trial Team members prepare for their successful case against De Montfort. From left, defense attorney Alyssa Boynton, defense attorney Natalie Kornblum, defense attorney Evan Hunter, defendant Madison Markham. Second row: fact witness John Sammet, witness – Elan Sandler

In the American Mock Trial Association’s competition, held this past weekend on the Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida, New College faced off against the top teams from University of Miami, Florida International University and Flagler College, as well as a team from England’s De Montfort University.

“To achieve what they did in their first-ever competition is simply amazing,” said David Fugett, New College’s general counsel and the team’s coach. “They fought every step of the way and continued to improve throughout the tournament.”

New College competed in the fourth and final round against actual law students from De Montfort, Fugett said, and outscored them by 15 points, 209-194.   

The match against De Montfort was historic, Fugett said, because the English college is the first from outside the United States to ever compete in any AMTA event. 

De Montfort and the other teams had much more experience, even competing in prior invitational tournaments using the same case materials.  

Virtually all of the teams involved this year were veteran teams from very large universities who had been there before,” Fugett said.  “New College went up against teams who were led by seniors in their fourth year of competition.” 

In comparison, this was the first time any of the New College students — all but one first-years or second-years — had competed in mock trial at any level.  And because they only began work on the case in January, they had not even scrimmaged with another school before the tournament.

After each trial the judges rank the top four attorneys and the top four witnesses.  All ten of the students representing New College made a top four list at some point during the tournament, many making the list multiple times, Fugett said.

“To do this well, and be this fearless, in their very first effort on such a big stage bodes well for the future,” Fugett said. “The sky is the limit for New College when it comes to the future of mock trial and moot court competition.”  

The students received assistance from local attorneys, including New College alumna Karen Fraivillig, a Sarasota County homicide prosecutor, and the Hon. Charles Williams, judge on the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota.

The New College Board of Trustees also supported the team financially and emotionally, with trustees Ron Christaldi and John Lilly providing funds to underwrite the trip to the competition.

Competition judges’ comments:

Natalie Kornblum (first-year): “Good question[ing].”  “Nice laying out of case/argument.” “Nice job with objections.” “Good job letting witness tell story.”

Evan Hunter (second-year): “Clear; direct; confident; proper use of leading questions on cross to effectively break down witness’s credibility.” “Great body language and tone; perfect line of questioning to elicit the needed responses from [your client].”

Alyssa Boynton (first-year): “Good rapport with your witness.”  “Really good job with chronological question build-up”. “Lets witness tell story, good poise, good volume, speaks clearly.”

Elan Sandler (first-year transfer): “You did very good getting into character and you came off as very credible; really looked and sounded the part.” “Good job helping defense on cross, good at qualifying statements in an expert-like manner.”

John Sammet (second-year):“Good job staying in character and great job answering the questions in a specific way (you didn’t over-answer the questions).” “Good command of facts.  Persuasive presentation.”

Madison Markham (first-year): “Good character play; clearly sad and broken but not over the top dramatic; really good answers [during] cross [examination].” “Great witness, very sympathetic.  Good job being evasive.”

Izaya Miles (second-year): “Good job at attempting to link the facts and testimony to a story to support prosecution.” “Immediately entertaining.  Good flavor with character, knows info well.”

Melody Scott (first-year): “You had a great easy tone.  Very nice objections.” “Direct and clear – good job with being succinct and persuasive.”

Erin Dumond (third-year): “Dog’s paw example was great.  You were very believable.” “Good job speaking clearly and conveying appropriate emotional engagement.” “Seemed very fair and partial – good job!”

Rhys Shanahan (second-year): “Good job not being flustered with hard questions and pivoting.” “VERY WELL DONE.”

— David Gulliver is interim associate director of the New College Office of Communications and Marketing.

Law ISP brings Florida Chief Justice to campus for moot court

By Anna Wright

The regional competition capped a year of work toward that goal. Team members had earlier practiced in events on campus, such as one during an independent study project led by Fugett.

The Advocacy and Persuasion ISP brought the Hon. Charles T. Canady, Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, to campus on January 9 to help run New College’s first ever Moot Court Exhibition. 

Moot Court is usually a hypothetical legal battle run by teams of students, but this court was different: Individual students Evan Hunter and Rhys Shanahan acted as attorneys for each side of the case. The case, centered around early voting sites on college campuses, had actually come before Florida courts. 

Students were presented with real legal documents from the case and had argued from actual briefs that were filed in the real case in 2018.

The purpose of the trial was not to reach a verdict, but for the students to practice their oral argumentation skills under intense pressure.

“Time is a precious commodity even for you, Your Honor,” offered Shanahan during his oral argument. 

Chief Justice Canady chuckled and said, “That’s why I vote by mail.”

Fugett, who led the Advocacy and Persuasion ISP, defended this exact case in court in April 2018. 

“I don’t know what bothered me more this afternoon: that Rhys shredded my argument and my brief to bits, or the fact that Evan did a better job than I did,” he said.

When asked for advice for pre-law students on how to reach these positions within the field, Chief Justice Canady said, “The path that leads to these kinds of positions is different for different people. If you’ve got something that’s an ambition or a dream, I think you need to find something in the law you enjoy and give it your very best.”

Anna Wright is a Public Affairs Student Assistant in the New College Office of Communications and Marketing.

New College alumna helps students with mock court case

By Taylor Young

The question was, did Sam Cunningham kill Jude Smith over the ownership of their fishing boat? 

Finding the answer would come down to a group of New College students, in a case being heard in the Cook Hall dining room, with a New College alumna — and veteran homicide prosecutor — presiding.

The case, as you might have guessed, was fictional, and the trial a “mock court” run by New College Law, or Novo Collegium Litigos,  a club for students interested in studying or practicing law. Student Rhys Shanahan started the club, with guidance from David Fugett, New College’s general counsel.  

The club put on the mock trial so the members could begin to prepare for competitions later this year. Other club members include officers Valerie Cintron-Malave,  Evan Hunter and Elan Sanders. Cintron-Malave, co-captain for the mock trial, has experience with law, having attended a law magnet school participating in mock trials for four years. 

Joining the students was Karen Fraivillig, a 1998 graduate of New College and an assistant state’s attorney for Sarasota County, serving as its chief homicide prosecutor. 

A non-traditional student, Fraivillig enrolled at New College after a first career as a land surveyor. At New College, she studied British and American literature and Europeran History, and wrote a thesis titled “Pilgrims and Their Texts – Factual and Fictional Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.”  

That may seem like an unusual preparation for law school, but Fraivillig would beg to differ. “People always think they have to study Constitutional law or political science or something that has some sort of connection to the law. That’s not true,” she said.

“The main thing is to be able to read and write well, and New College teaches you exactly that. You study language, which is the tool of lawyers,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Medieval Studies or even math or sciences. New College is a great start to law school.”

Under Fraivillig’s guidance, the mock trial took an informal approach so she could work with the students. Two took the roles of defense attorneys, claiming Cunningham acted in self-defense. Two others acted as prosecutors, claiming Cunningham committed pre-meditated murder. Although they only had a week to prepare, they presented the case using bold vocabulary and went into depth about the evidence and the arguments. 

In an interview after the trial, Fraivillig congratulated the students for their energy and effort. “The four that argued, two for the prosecution and two for the defense, did exactly what good litigators do,” she said. “A good litigator has three weapons – being prepared on the facts, the ability to select a jury, and being passionate.” 

This mock court didn’t allow students to select a jury, but they displayed the other two qualities. “They were very, very passionate, and they knew the facts backward and forward,” Fraivillig said. “They did a marvelous job and I was very impressed.”

— Taylor Young is a writing intern in the New College Office of Communications and Marketing.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is the state's only legislatively designated Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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