2022 Mock Trial Regional Competition


Photo of the UIS Mock Trial team after completing their final round at a competition in Bloomington, IL | Photo Credit: Rex Gradeless

On February 19 and 20, The University of Illinois-Springfield (UIS) Mock Trial Team competed in a series of competitions against other schools from across the globe. Led by their head coach, Rex Gradeless, and the UIS Mock Trial Team president, Nikola Sowa, the team of nine members fiercely competed against rivaling schools to see who provided the better case and took the most scores/ballots overall.

Photo of a Courtroom used for a Mock Trial Tournament. | Photo Credit: Jermaine Windham, Staff Contributor

Mock trial is a competitive student organization highlighting exceedingly valuable skills such as communication, public speaking, critical thinking, active listening, and – probably one of the most important skills – teamwork. The UIS Mock Trial Team competes against other college teams within the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). Each academic year, AMTA releases either a criminal or civil case packet. The rounds consisted of two opposing teams of three attorneys and three witnesses on each side of the case. One side would be Plaintiff, while the other side would be Defense. A team is on the role of Plaintiff and Defense twice each during a tournament. Attorneys learn and apply case law and provide evidence to support their case. Some attorneys would perform opening or closing statements following a theory and a theme to keep the trial engaging and structured as well as to earn the highest scores. Witnesses give their verbal testimonies to the case.

In round photo of the courtroom during a Mock Trial competition. | Photo Credit: Jermaine Windham, Staff Contributor

At the Regional Mock Trial Competition, the UIS Mock Trial team had eight students competing in an effort to earn enough bids for the Opening Rounds Championship Series tournament (ORCS). This is where the ranked teams who earned enough bids/wins at their given regional tournament go to compete – the goal for most teams. Judges rank and score teams based on performance, presentation, and other factors. The top-ranked witnesses and attorneys receive individual awards, and the top six ranked teams receive team awards. A team had to earn six bids in order to move up and make it to ORCS.

The UIS Mock Trial Team took three bids at the regional competition, with one outstanding attorney award earned by UIS student Cedric Birgans at 18 ranks. It was a valiant effort for the eight students competing against some of the best teams in the country and having to work in a zoom format due to COVID-19, which is quite new for Mock Trial. ORCS is scheduled to be in-person this year.

Photo of two UIS outstanding award winners earning best witness and attorney awards respectively: Jermaine Windham (Left) & Cedric Birgans (Right). | Photo Credit: Rex Gradeless

While the University of Illinois- Springfield Mock Trial team did not make it to ORCS this year, they have made amazing amounts of progress and achievements, making them ready for the next opportunity in 2023. In the words of UIS Coach Rex Gradeless, “There’s something special about competing against a school whose same semester tuition exceeds the entire cost of being a student at UIS and being competitive.” There are plenty of spots left open to fill up the team for the 2022-2023 Mock Trial season.

If you are interested in joining the Mock Trial family or have any questions, please contact Coach Rex Gradeless at [email protected] or President Nikola Sowa at [email protected]. For more information about UIS MockTrial, you can also check out the team website: https://www.uis.edu/prelawcenter/uismocktrialclub/

Current Team Members: President Nikola Sowa, Vice President Payton Wilkins, Treasurer Camille Daley, Secretary Jermaine Windham, Ben Garrett, Renee Probst, Cedric Birgans, Jacob Cacioppo, Sadie Edgar, Janet Olujide, & Team Coach Rex Gradeless