Trial Team Heads to Nationals
The UF Trial Team has won regionals, and is now headed to national competition. “These students are establishing a winning tradition at UF,” said Professor Kenneth Nunn. This group of 40 hardworking students is getting a feel for what it is like to be recognized and respected at a national level. “We are so proud of our trial team. These students are some of the best leaders in the law school,” said Dean Gail Sasnett. Eight UF trial team members participated in the Regional ATLA Competition in West Palm Beach, March 4. Team A members included Jack Hill, Larry Danny, Michelle Skinner and Tony Simpson. Team B members included LaShawnda Jackson, Annette Urena, Desiree Demonbreun and John Perry. Tom Farkash of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, PA, and Brande Swartz, a local prosecutor who was also a member of the UF 2000 ATLA Regional Winning Team, coached the teams. The regional competition included teams from Stetson, Barry, Florida Coastal, Georgia State, Miami, Florida State, St. Thomas and Nova. Going into the quarter-final trials, UF teams were ranked one and two, and were undefeated at 3-0. The team’s last win secured Team A a spot in the National Finals competition to be held in New Orleans later this month. Team A’s victory also claimed the Regional championship for two years in a row by UF. UF teams finished the competition with eight wins and only one loss. But this co-curricular group of students didn’t always have this much fame. Historically, Stetson has swept Florida, but in the past few years the UF team has dedicated time and hard work to ensure a national presence. With two dedicated faculty advisors, Carl Schwait of Dell Graham, PA, and Professor Nunn, the team has guidance and continuing support. The advisors make sure the team has the best local attorneys coaching the teams and supporting them by acting as judges in mock trials. They also are available to assist with questions regarding litigation issues. “These are unbelievably motivated students, and the hardest working group I ever met,” Schwait said. The team selects new members every semester in a process very much like the competitions themselves. There are no criteria, except that students be in their second semester at law school. Team members are picked for litigation skills in a mock trial judged by current team members and coaches. For the past few semesters, six new members have been asked to join the 40-student team. Students may stay on the team as long as they fulfill their obligations. Each member must earn 50 points each semester by attending meetings, participating in competitions, and serving on committees. To receive credit for trial team work, students must maintain 60 points for the semester. “The competitions provide an opportunity to compete and win at the state and national levels. “It also allows us to sharpen our evidence and advocate skills outside of the classroom,” said James McDonald, Trial Team President. The teams receive a case to study about two months prior to competition. They work closely with their coaches up until the event. They practice every detail of the case from the opening, direct examination, cross examination, closing and even some motions. All arguments have to be thought out and well-prepared. They can work closely with faculty and local practitioners, studying topics and having in-depth discussions they may not have otherwise. McDonald compares the team to a family. “We all get along and have built strong relationships from working so closely,” he said. The team likes to keep in mind the vision of the late Gerald Bennett, the team’s previous faculty advisor. They know he wanted them to be this successful, and members appreciate his dedication and time that helped lay the foundation for success.