Bryant University’s second annual Tupper Classic mock trial invitational tournament, held on October 21-22, welcomed competitors from 11 colleges and universities from across the region, including Princeton, Drexel University, Northeastern University, and University of Rochester to test their legal acumen. More than 150 students, including 10 Bryant Bulldogs, participated in this year’s tournament, a marked increase over last year’s inaugural Classic, says Catherine Harris ’24, president of Bryant’s Mock Trial club and the Classic’s lead organizer.
In intercollegiate mock trial competitions, students role-play as lawyers and witnesses and are judged on their persuasiveness and ability to analyze arguments. This year’s fictional case revolved around the high-stakes robbery of the Sohi Children’s Hospital gala; the student jurists were charged with proving the guilt — or defending the innocence — of accused thieves Poe Cameron and Berkley De La Porta.
The only invitational mock trial tournament in Rhode Island and one of a handful in the region, the Tupper Classic is an important practice arena for aspiring legal practitioners, says Owen Sawyer ’24, vice president of the Bryant Mock Trial, team who aims to enter the legal profession after graduation. “I think my favorite moment is right before I start my opening statement, when you’re standing up by yourself in front of the judges and the jury, and you take a deep breath and realize, ‘I’ve got this,’ ” he says.
Bryant’s Mock Trial team has been planning the competition since April and handled all aspects of the Classic, from inviting teams to budgeting securing and organizing volunteers to ensuring the competition adhered to strict American Mock Trial Association rules. “This is something that we're proud of, and that I think the university as a whole should be proud of as well,” says Harris.
The cases were judged by more than 40 volunteers recruited by the Mock Trial team, many of whom were practicing attorneys and other legal professionals. The response to their call for judges was enthusiastic, says Harris. “For a lot of our of the volunteers, it’s a way to give back to the Mock Trial and the legal community and to pass what they’ve learned to up and coming students,” she notes.
That culture of mentorship is alive and well within Bryant’s own Mock Trial community, says Harris, noting that many of the judges were recruited from Bryant’s own alumni base and crediting Andrew Hinckley ’23, former club president and lead Tupper Classic organizer and now an associate in Fidelity’s Emerging Leader Program, with returning to the team as a coach alongside Camille Schaefer. Supporters with the campus community were invaluable as well, including Veronica McComb, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; John Dietrich, professor and chair of the Politics, Law, and Society department; Terri Hasseler, director of Bryant’s Center for Teaching Excellence; and club advisor Eliza Paradis, coordinator of the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement.
The Mock Trial team has done some mentoring of their own. In attendance at the tournament were several local high school students who participated in a Mock Trial summer camp run by Bryant Mock Trial and were excited to learn more about the field.
Ultimately, legacy was top of mind in preparing this year’s tournament, says Harris. For the second year in a row, the Classic, which crowned Brandeis as its 2023 champion, received high praise from competitors and volunteers, she notes, which officially makes for the start of a successful tradition. “It's a great feeling to be part of this, first to help run it last year and now to make it our own,” she says.
The legacy they started, she predicts, will extend far into the future. “There’s a whole new generation that wants it to keep going and going,” says Harris. And when they do, she and Sawyer, who graduate in May, will be back to help out.