Auburn University's Mock Trial Competition Team furthers the study of law through various competitions, where the team competes against other prominent universities from around the country. The team's members come from various colleges and departments at Auburn, and Auburn's organization is large enough to accommodate two separate teams, Nova and Spirit, for competition purposes. In August, the American Mock Trial Association, or AMTA, releases a case packet to university and college teams located across the United States. This packet presents either a criminal or civil case that centers around a particular incident and includes any necessary witness affidavits, evidence, prevailing case law and rules of evidence. Each team will prepare both a prosecution and a defense case, writing opening statements, witness direct examinations, witness cross examinations and closing arguments. Students within the organization use the case packet to write and memorize these various elements, playing both attorney and witness roles. At competitions, each team will try one side of a case against a team from another college, with each '"trial" being presented before both a presiding judge and scoring judges. Most competitions consist of four rounds, where teams compete twice as the Plaintiff/Prosecution and twice as the Defense. Every round lasts approximately three hours apiece, and the tournaments generally last two to three days, as they are held on weekends. Each team member is scored by this panel of judges based upon their performance, pursuant to AMTA scoring criteria. The issued verdict is not based upon the facts of the case; instead, the winning team is the one that best argues their side of the case. For more information about the American Mock Trial Association, visit AMTA's website. Through participation in Mock Trial, students enhance their critical thinking, communication and writing skills, all while preparing for law school and the legal profession.
In the fall, the teams meet three times per week in practices that focus on assigning the team members’ specific roles, researching the case, and learning the rules of evidence. Team members also discuss general courtroom and trial procedure. After several preliminary meetings, members begin constructing a case theory from the materials provided in the AMTA packet. Members acting as witnesses begin learning their affidavits and crafting their characters. Attorneys begin drafting examinations and opening and closing statements. Some members alternate between playing witnesses and attorneys. The teams participate in at least one invitational during the fall.
In the spring, the teams again practice three or four nights per week for approximately 2 to 3 hours per session. Nova and Spirit scrimmage each other in practice rounds judged by prominent, local attorneys, as well as local state and federal judges. The teams occasionally schedule scrimmages with teams from other universities. Team practices are scheduled by the respective team captains, and the practices may range from working on a member’s own preparation, to organizing and performing group dress rehearsals. All members attend each practice, so that each member can provide his or her unique perspective on the important facts and legal issues to be presented at trial.
The Mock Trial Competition Team has won at least one award every year they have participated in the regional AMTA competition. These awards include Best Attorney, Best Witness, and Spirit of AMTA. Selected by other competing teams, the Spirit of AMTA award is given to the team that best demonstrates civility, justice and fair play.
In 2018, Auburn's team was invited to the Opening Rounds of the National Championship for only the second time in the team’s history. Nova traveled to Delaware and competed against some of the top teams in the country. In 2019, both Nova and Spirit were invited to the Opening Rounds of the National Championship, marking the first time in the team's history that both teams received invitations to the Opening Rounds of the National Championship.