Few students find a break amidst the demands of college life. However, one 5C club uses its free time to dive into courtroom scenarios, case theories, lines of questioning, cross examination and responses to objections. The Scripps College Mock Trial team puts itself to work.
Twice a week, for two hours each meeting, the Scripps mock trial team can be found in a small classroom at Scripps’ Edwards Humanities Building preparing for an upcoming season.
Every year, the American Mock Trial Association creates a case for the season’s competitions. This year, the case is about a plane crash in which an individual sues a corporation for negligence. To prepare for this case, Scripps College Mock Trial split into two teams, each with around seven Scripps students. The groups sorted through the hundreds of pages of case information, including witness testimonies, evidence and more so that they could form an A and B team to compete in this season of trials.
The competitions themselves are somewhat theatrical in their performance. Much research and effort goes into the preparation phase of the season so that when it is time to perform, participants can effectively deliver their arguments. And in the roles where improvising is required, the team has enough knowledge to come up with something on their feet.
Scripps Mock Trial member Emily Pollins SC ’26 explains this dynamic.
“It’s kind of fun to get into it. I played a witness where my spouse had died … so you can’t go up there and be …smiling, so I had to shed some tears … and being an attorney you have to embody this really formal … role, you kind of get consumed by it,” Pollins said.
This year, Scripps has a younger team, mostly composed of first-year students. Because of this team make-up, many of the team’s goals revolve around community bonding and gaining skills rather than only focusing on winning, as Scripps College Mock Trial Vice President Amie Lee SC ’23 explained.
“The team is relatively new because the last two years we’ve had to do mock trials over Zoom, [so] our retention rate has been low because it is just not as fun to compete on Zoom as it is in person,” Lee said. “… And so we really want to emphasize bonding, building a community of people who enjoy this activity and are feeling empowered by it … Our goal is to make sure that everyone is engaged and having fun and feeling empowered and lifted up by this activity.”
This is the first year since the start of the pandemic that competitions will be in person, creating much excitement amongst the mock trial community. So far, the Scripps College Mock Trial team has competed in two scrimmages. In November, they traveled to both UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine to compete against other teams in Southern California.
Like any other competitive activity, competition days are filled with great anticipation. For many, this feeling is a mix of excitement, fear and anxiety. Despite these nerves, having hard work pay off proves a great reward.
“There’s always a huge amount of anxiety that comes with competitions, regardless of your experience,” Lee said. “It is a really high pressure intense situation and with that comes a lot of stress. That’s the hardest part. But I think that is also my favorite part. It’s like twofold. While it is super high intensity and stressful, the feeling that you get when you succeed … is one of my favorite feelings in the world. … [And] seeing your teammates thrive and succeed in that same way and find fulfillment in this activity is like my favorite part.”
As a team representing a historically women’s college which has both female and gender non-conforming members, the Scripps team often faces treatment based on stereotypes about women. According to Lee, the team often receives comments about coming off as too aggressive or being inappropriately dressed, and they oftentimes wins awards for being the most friendly. Yet, these obstacles can be reinvented as a tool of empowerment.
“I think that there are a lot of inherent assumptions and biases that are held by the legal system, and the people who are judging us are typically either law students or lawyers that are volunteering for a mock trial and oftentimes they’re perpetuating or recreating the biases they have about non-men in the legal world,” Lee said.
In an arena in which being assertive, bold and tough can equate to success — many characteristics that are typically not seen as desirable in women — the Scripps College Mock Trial team reclaims these skills through their performance and hardwork in order to achieve success as a team and find personal fulfillment.
“We’re basically taught in every aspect especially as … younger women, to just not trust ourselves in our abilities,” sophomore member Hadley Iselin SC ’25 said. “And this activity, as silly as it sounds, has given me so much more confidence in myself and what I’m saying.”
Reflecting on the start of their season and all the hard work the team has put in so far, Lee makes it known that no matter the number of wins or losses, or where this season goes for the team, they have their own definition of success.
“I’m really happy … to talk about mock because I love it and I feel like it’s such a niche activity … I’m so happy with how we did last weekend,” Lee said. “I’m so happy with the kind of relationships and friendships that we’ve formed as a team. And so I’m really excited to see what this year holds for us.”