Freshman Wins Intramural Mock Trial Competition

Published: January 02, 2019 | Author: Savannah Byers | Read Time: 2 minutes

Student Hayley Robertson sitting in SUU's mock courtroom.In her first encounter with mock trial debate, freshman communication major Hayley Robertson competed against three fellow students and ended up earning first place during the Southern Utah University Department of Legal Studies annual intramural Mock Trial Competition during fall 2018.

“I was so nervous. I had never tried anything like this, and I felt ill prepared compared to the other contestants.” said Robertson, “Once I took the stand, all the fear melted away and was replaced with passion. It was amazing and helped confirm that this is what I want to do.”

The event was organized by the legal studies department, facilitated primarily by legal studies coordinator Tyler Melling,  and included special guest judges Geoffrey Chesnut and E. Jay Overson; both of whom are practicing attorneys in Cedar City and adjunct professors with SUU.

The case used for this recent contest was a real case that never went to court. This probate, criminal law case incorporated the subjects of inheritance, loss, and murder. The student’s primary duty was to prepare legal arguments that explained how the court interpreted the law incorrectly at the trial level, though the facts were already established.

The case had one strong loophole argument that was difficult to discover. However, Robertson found this gap, and then took home the gold. Melling described her angle as a “creative argument” that was well executed.

“I was impressed with the caliber of contestants, especially given that some of them had never experienced a mock trial before this event,” said guest judge, Overson. “We tried not to be too difficult with our questions at first, but as the competition went on the questions became harder as the contestants became better at arguing their positions.”

For the first time at SUU, the mock trial competition was in the moot court format which entails an appeal style case where the facts are already present. The object of this court style and case is to convince the court of appeals to reverse the lower court’s decision. All previous competitions at SUU have been in the mock format.

“Tyler Melling put together a tough fact pattern and the participants were impressive,” said guest judge Chesnut. “The preparation they put into the event paid off. Those who indicated a desire to go to law school seem to be on the right track for success.”

The unique aspect of the legal studies program is that one doesn’t need to major in law to pursue a career in law; the legal studies program welcomes all majors. Law schools that are accredited by the American Bar Association admit students from all walks of life with a variety of degrees in many different majors. In addition to law-related courses, the SUU Legal Studies Program and Legal Studies Student Association work together to offer many activities and events for students including field trips and law school admissions workshops.

For more information visit the SUU Legal Studies website or email legal studies coordinator Tyler Melling at

Tags: Student College of Humanities and Social Sciences Legal Studies

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