Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

Southwestern TAHP Team Finishes in Top Four at National Competition April 16, 2013
Southwestern TAHP Team Finishes in Top Four at National Competition

At the 2013 American Association for Justice (AAJ) National Student Trial Advocacy Competition in New Orleans, Southwestern's Trial Advocacy Honors Program (TAHP) team delivered an impressive performance, finishing in one of the top four spots out of the 250 teams that competed.

After five rounds of competition putting on full trials - complete with openings, closings, direct and cross examinations, motions, and objections - Southwestern's regional championship team of Mackenzie Brown, Jahmy Graham, Michelle Henderson and Christine Wood advanced to the quarterfinals and then to the semifinals at the national competition.

In the preliminary rounds, Southwestern defeated teams from the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University (St. Louis) and William Mitchell College of Law. In the quarterfinal round, Southwestern beat Georgetown. The team from Notre Dame defeated Southwestern in the semifinal round.

The team argued a civil suit against a fictitious university for negligent supervision and retention of a pedophile, the well-known coach of the baseball team. This scenario involved the wrongful death of one of his alleged victims, who committed suicide as a result of the sexual abuse. The case also included allegations that the university knew about the abuse but failed to stop it.

"During the semifinal round, the competition organizers gave each side two new pieces of critical evidence that we had to read, process and analyze within 15 minutes before using it," Wood said. "It was a challenge for the advocates and the witnesses, but judges later told us that we handled that new evidence with incredible grace and competence."

Southwestern's team prepared for the competition by practicing three to four times per week for four months. Alumni Doug Baek '08 and Kenneth Holdren '09, and fellow TAHP member J.B. Twomey coached the team.

"Our amazing coaches and teammates made the whole experience fun," Henderson said. "This contributed to my confidence in doing the best I could during each round."

The team's run was particularly impressive given the high level of advocacy they faced from top law schools. "Experiencing all of the different styles of advocacy at the National level was exciting," Brown said. "It was fun and interesting to compare our styles to others."