By Katie Jenkins
This fall semester has been a busy one for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law National Trial Team. The competitions got off to a strong start with the San Diego Defense Lawyers (SDDL) Competition held in San Diego, California. Plaintiff’s counsel Kierre Coghill and Justin Hall competed in the first round while defense counsel Melanie Guillen and Andrew Myers competed in the second round. “The case was a medical malpractice case, and on the first night, Hall and Coghill were strong in their advocacy and cut through their competition with surgical accuracy” says Mr. Myers. Kierre Coghill, team captain, noted the positive feedback that the TJSL team received from the guest judges. “The judges commented on how well prepared the teams were and that regardless of who won, all the competitors were sure to be wonderful trial attorneys,” said Coghill. Although the team did not advance to the last round their performance was the springboard for the Fall 2014 competition season.
In November, TJSL sent two teams to the American Bar Association Labor and Employment (ABA L&E) Competition, held at the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles, California. The case was a wage and hour claim made by entertainers against the Bottoms Up Nightclub, an adult entertainment club at which they worked.
TJSL’s first team, Plaintiff’s counsel Leanne Wilder and Ravi Mohan, competed in the morning round. Defense counsel Precious Harrison-Cobb and Thomas Gennaro went against a different school in the afternoon round. Ms. Wilder said, “The witnesses being played by the opposing team were very difficult and Thomas and Precious did a fantastic job when the witnesses wanted to fight them on every single question.”
TJSL’s second team to compete in the ABA L&E Competition, were Ashley Salas and James White for the plaintiffs, and Katie Smith and Leo Fuentes Vargas for the defense. “This competition really showed us that we can push ourselves to perform at a very high level,” said Katie Smith. “We were commended by judges on our team work and our level of professionalism with the other teams,” said Smith noting that TJSL left a positive impression on the guest judges. Unfortunately, TJSL did not advance to the semi-finals. Ms. Wilder stated, “The fact pattern was fun and interesting and we are proud with our performance.”
The third competition of the Fall 2014 semester was the first annual Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL) Competition. This unique competition was between the three San Diego law schools: Thomas Jefferson School of Law, California Western School of Law, and University of San Diego, School of Law. In the first round, Defense counsel Joshua Brisbane and Sarah Brand went head to head against the University of San Diego. Jessica McCracken and Jeremy Garrett represented the plaintiffs in the second round against California Western.
TJSL advanced to the final round after beating out the University of San Diego. “After months of preparation, we pulled together, strategically and creatively, and had the opportunity to put our trial skills to the test. Our efforts were validated and rewarded, when we learned that we would be moving on to the final round,” says Ms. McCracken. The final round was held at the Federal Courthouse in San Diego where Ms. McCracken and Mr. Garrett went against California Western for the second time. TJSL took second place in the ABTL competition as well as a $3,000 cash prize.
Ms. McCracken sums it up best when she said, “I am extremely proud of my teammates and cannot wait for us to do it again next semester!” The team will take a short break before they begin preparation again in January. The TJSL National Trial Team members and coaches dedicated countless hours to prepare for each competition and it has made for another successful and rewarding semester.