A three-person team from Widener’s Delaware campus was the finalist in the 51st annual Academy of Trial Lawyers Mock Trial Competition.
The event, at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Pittsburgh, occurred between Feb. 19 and 21. The Widener team lost – by one point – to the team from Duquesne University School of Law.
Students Caroline Donato and Jon Landua argued the defense side of the civil trial involving negligence and wrongful death claims stemming from a fatal accident between a motorcycle and a truck. Student John Henry, who was also part of the team, served as the defendant truck driver. They were coached by adjunct professors Constance Clarke
and Catherine Berryman.
The trio began working together as a team in September and started practicing for the case in December, after receiving more than 1,000 pages of competition exhibits and depositions.
“It was my best experience in law school,” Landua said. “You get to really put what you’ve learned into practice.”
The competition is limited to 16 teams and is by invitation only. Known informally as “ATLAC,” it is presented by the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County, Pa. The organization partners with federal District Court judges from the Western District of Pennsylvania, who host the competition in their courtrooms, and with the Allegheny County Medical Society, which supplies physicians to serve as expert witnesses.
Students at the competition argue to a jury, but a panel of six attorneys, watching and tallying points, determine the winner. Top-scoring plaintiff and defense teams from the first round advance to the final.
Both juries who heard the Delaware team’s cases sided with them for verdicts. The six judges split evenly on which side should win the final round, forcing an examination of the judges' point totals. The highest and lowest scores were dropped and a tally of the remaining scores put Duquesne on top by one point.
All three members of the Delaware-campus team are third-year law students who will graduate in May. Each has expressed an interest in criminal law.
Widener Law has a strong history with the competition. The Harrisburg team of Langdon Ramsburg, Katie Adam and Mitchell Jones won the competition last year.