School of Law hosts National Board of Trial Advocacy Tournament of Champions

The School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis is hosting this year’s National Board of Trial Advocacy Tournament of Champions (TOC), one of the premier law school trial competitions nationwide. The competition runs through Oct. 31 at the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis and at the School of Law.

Teams from 16 of the top law schools in the nation, including one from Washington University, will participate in several rounds of trial advocacy competition. Invitations are based on a three-year performance record at the National Trial Competition and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, as well as performances at prior TOC competitions.

Judge David C. Mason (JD ’83), an adjunct professor at the School of Law, TOC director and head coach of the School of Law’s trial team, prepared the problem.

The case is based on the tragedy surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014. Mason’s hypothetical competition problem continues the TOC tradition of the host law school adapting an actual case from the host’s jurisdiction.

For this year’s TOC, law students will litigate the issue of whether the shooting death constituted “legal use of force” by a police officer or “criminal homicide.”

While drawing heavily from the actual Ferguson case, Mason noted that he has edited and changed much of the key testimony to balance the merits and still have a case that can be tried in a three-hour competitive mock trial setting.

“We are pleased to host this year’s tournament of champions and to be among the teams competing,” said Michael Koby, JD, associate dean of International & Graduate Programs, director of the Trial & Advocacy Program and Professor of Practice at the School of Law. “We have been fortunate to have Judge Mason lead our trial team year after year. His hard work and expertise have created a truly outstanding program.”

“In my 30 years of working with School of Law trial teams, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor and share what I have learned with hundreds of students,” said Mason, who, as a law student, along with teammate Cathy Gilbert Kelly (JD ’83), garnered the 1983 championship title in the American College of Trial Lawyers National Trial Competition.

“I take a lot of pride in knowing that I’ve been able to help create some truly elite lawyers over the years,” Mason said. “We’ve sent a lot of outstanding lawyers out into the world who are doing a lot of outstanding things. We have been able to jump start their careers by giving them the tools they need to go out there and be excellent at what they do and achieve their dreams. You can’t beat that.”

Mark Rudder (JD ’91), assistant trial team coach, agrees.

“I am honored to be part of such a high quality program that produces highly effective litigators year after year,” said Rudder, founding principal of his St. Louis law firm and a trial team participant mentored by Mason as a student. “I use many of the skills I learned from Judge Mason in my practice. These are the same skills we teach today.”

For more information on the competition, visit the competitions page on the School of Law website.