Cumberland Team Places 2nd and Receives Two Awards in South Texas

Posted: Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:09

A team from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law took second place out of 30 teams at the South Texas College of Law Mock Trial Challenge (STMC) March 27-30, 2014, in Houston. During the fall 2013 semester, this same team took top honors in the nation at the National Civil Trial Competition in Los Angeles, Calif.

The STMC second place finish follows Cumberland School of Law’s two-team sweep of the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Regional Competition March 20-23, 2014, in Atlanta; and comes just after the law school was ranked 6th in the nation for its trial advocacy program in U.S. News & World Report's 2015 Best Grad Schools.

This year’s STMC case involved an injunction in which third-year students Erin “Alex” McFall, Jefferson City, Tenn.; Michael “Blake” Milner, Birmingham, Ala.; Jackson Neal, Birmingham, Ala.; and Anna “Genevieve” Turner, Knoxville, Tenn.; argued over whom should receive a heart as dictated by federal law. The team was coached by Cumberland School of Law alumni Bains Fleming ’07 of Norman, Wood, Kendrick & Turner, and Ross Massey ’11 of Gaines, Gault, Hendrix, P.C.

Milner received the Top Advocate in the Preliminary Rounds Award and McFall received the prestigious Best Advocate in the Final Round Award, taking home a pair of spurs. 

“Winning an award recognizing individual advocacy is really a testament to how Cumberland School of Law teaches trial skills,” said Milner. “The coaches - Ross Massey, Judge James Roberts [1994 Cumberland alumnus] and Bains Fleming - have taught me how to be comfortable in a courtroom. This award recognizes the efforts of the trial coaches, my teammates, and the many guest judges who have helped prepared the team over the past two years.”

“I'm most proud of this award because I won it for advocating. Anyone can memorize a script, I won my award for being off script,” said McFall. “My coaches and teammates are the best advocates I know. When you practice day in and day out with such talented people, some of their skill just rubs off on you.”

In the preliminary rounds, Cumberland School of Law defeated teams from Nova Southeastern University, Fordham University, University of Georgia, George Mason University, Faulkner University and the University of South Carolina.

After beating Georgia State University in the semifinal round, Cumberland School of Law continued to the championship against the University of Georgia, narrowly missing first place by a 4-2 vote.

The South Texas Mock Trial Challenge is one of the most prestigious mock trial competitions held in the country. Law school teams travel from across the U.S. to compete in the invitational trial competition. McFall and Neal represented the plaintiffs, individuals seeking a permanent injunction, with Milner and Turner advocating on behalf of the United Network for Organ Sharing and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the defendants in this case. This year’s challenge included several litigation components. Competitors were required to draft and submit a scored trial brief, review and incorporate various medical expert deposition testimony, and then argue a highly emotional case centered upon organ procurement and donation policies in the U.S.

“There is a ton of work that goes into preparing for these competitions,” said Neal. “It's pretty common to be leaving practice after 10 p.m. during the week and weekend. The hours go by fast because we manage to have a pretty good time together.”

“I’m extremely proud of these students,” said Coach Massey. “I have had the privilege of coaching and traveling with this group since they began competing on the law school’s Trial Team and I have watched them grow into amazing advocates. I look forward to watching them in their careers, because I know these are some heavy-hitters who are ready for the courtroom.” 

From her experiences on the Trial Team, Turner has been offered a job at the conclusion of law school which she accepted. “I'm pretty thankful to the trial program, especially my coaches and teachers, and have become a bit nostalgic in these last few weeks at law school,” said Turner, referencing that her law school graduation is only a few short weeks away. “The Trial Team stories will always be the moments I look back on and miss.”