NIU Mock Trial teams excel in competition

NIU’s Mock Trial teams have once again had a successful season – and it’s not over yet!

This past weekend, two NIU teams competed at the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Regional Tournament in Joliet, IL – one of 27 sanctioned regional tournaments in the country held over three weekends in February. There were a total of 26 teams at the Joliet regional from schools in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

NIU A team. Back Row: Brandon Thennisch, Matthew Moore, Michael Palacios, Coach Mitch Pickerill, Alex Drilling. Front row: Monique Torres, Kaitlyn Harper, Andrea Alcantar

The NIU A team finished 6-2, earning one of seven bids to the next round of the national competition, the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). The NIU B team went 4-4. Kaitlyn Harper won an Outstanding Attorney Award, and Michael Palacios won an Outstanding Witness Award. Individual Awards are given to approximately the top ten percent of attorney and witness roles.

College mock trial teams begin working on the case problem provided by AMTA in August every year. This year’s case is an attempted murder case. They compete all year in invitational tournaments in preparation for February’s regional tournament. More than 700 teams from over 300 colleges and universities nationwide compete. The top 192 teams advance from regionals to ORCS, and only the top 48 teams advance to the National Championship Tournament. A tournament consists of four trials over an entire weekend.

NIU B team. Back row: Alex Rader, Justin Tilghman, Frank Murdock. Middle row: Vanessa Gebka, Meghan Trentz, Tori Graves, Sarah Castle, Cassie Minnifield, Coach Mitch Pickerill. Front row: Sandra Puebla.

The NIU mock trial team program has grown into one of the most successful programs in the country, earning bids to the National Championship Tournament the last two years. NIU has competed in six invitational tournaments this year, placing fifth in two l tournaments last fall, and this is the fourth consecutive year that an NIU team has advanced from the regional tournament to ORCS.

According to senior and three-year mocker Harper, who is also president of the mock trial program and a co-captain on the A team, “Our program has high standards. We have a lot of rookies on this year’s team, but everyone worked incredibly hard all year to keep our streak of making it to ORCS alive.”

Palacios, a senior who is also co-captain of the A team added, “Mock trial is a team sport, and everyone has to learn to work together for the good of the team. Now we have our sights set on earning a bid to the National Championship Tournament.”

NIU will be co-hosting the ORCS tournament at the Kane County Judicial Center in Geneva, IL, on  March 16-18, at which 24 of the top college mock trial teams from around the country – including NIU – will compete for an opportunity to advance to the National Championship Tournament in April. The tournament is open to the public for viewing.

Lawyers and others with legal backgrounds are needed to serve as judges at the March event in Geneva. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a judge, please contact professor Mitch Pickerill, coach of NIU’s Mock Trial team, at