The UC Irvine Mock Trial Team is No Mockery

UC Irvine may not have a football team to garner its school victories, but with the bright prospects of our Mock Trial team, the Anteater name is still being carried no less triumphantly. Although the team is only in its first year and still a newcomer to its region’s tournaments and competitions, it has proven that its novice status is indeed not an indication of its capabilities.
The team’s most recent and major success was at the Western Regional Mock Trial Tournament in Los Angeles two weeks ago on Feb. 18 and 19.
‘We won four trials and lost four trials, missing the bid to go to nationals with only half a point,’ said Kunal Jain, a second-year electrical engineering major and member of the Mock Trail team. Jain was also one of the recipients of the Outstanding Attorney Award.
‘The award is really a group win,’ Jain said. ‘They taught me everything I know, so it’s a reflection that the entire team is doing something right.’
Although the team missed the chance for Nationals, it was awarded the Spirit of American Mock Trial Association award.
‘It is an award appointed by our peers and friends, so for them to be able to say that they think UCI is a good team, that’s a big achievement for us,’ Jain said.
Marissa Oxman, first-year women’s studies major agreed.
‘It was amazing and surreal. All the other teams stood up and applauded and it made us really feel like we had accomplished something,’ Oxman said.
Among these awards, one of the team’s witnesses, first-year political science major Shima Gorgani, also received recognition as Outstanding Witness at the Arizona Desert Classic Tournament in Tuscan, Ariz.
‘[Mock Trial] is an academic competitive team where we simulate a real trial,’ said team captain and second-year English major Nada Rastad.
Each team is assigned a case and as a group, they develop effective arguments that they can both defend and prosecute.
‘From there we hold tryouts to see who can give the best performance for each courtroom role,’ Jain said. ‘For example, if we had a witness crying and really acting out the role, it serves for a much more convincing argument.’
Mock Trial allows not only those who are interested in the field of law the opportunity to get a feel for the courtroom atmosphere, it also develops the communication and interpersonal skills, which are beneficial to everyone. Because of its realistic setting, ‘it teaches people to think on their feet and builds the confidence to effectively talk in front of people,’ Oxman said.
Ever since high school, Oxman has been a part of Mock Trial. ‘I would still do Mock Trial if it didn’t have awards,’ Oxman said. ‘It’s a reward in it of itself.’
In addition to the skills its members have acquired, the team has been able to pull many good friendships from the experience. ‘After you spend so much time together focusing on this one goal halfway through the year, it’s hard not to be close. We have turned into a big family,’ Rastad said. ‘We all hang out outside of Mock Trial, so it’s a good and bad thing, because it’s sometimes hard to get work done when you’re all friends.’
The team is always open and looking to expand their family to new dedicated and determined members. ‘People don’t really know that UCI has a Mock Trial team, but we hope to get more involvement so we can get the absolute best people and really demonstrate what UCI is all about,’ Jain said. Meetings are usually held on Wednesdays in Humanities Hall 118 from 5:00 to 7:00. ‘We will be having some general-interest meetings spring quarter, and tryouts in the fall for those interested,’ Rastad said.
So, what’s next for the Mock Trial team?
‘I just want to go in there and take down UCLA and USC,’ Oxman said. ‘We are all having a fun time right now and we’re really dedicated, so I’m looking forward to what we can do with that in the next few years.’
In addition to their current coach, Sean Shahabi, the team is also getting a second coach, Justin Bernstein, who built up UC Berkeley’s team and has been coaching the Mock Trial team at New York University. With the team’s already strong start, experienced coaches and persistent commitment, chances are this won’t be the last time we’ll be hearing from the UCI Mock Trial team. ‘We are working our way to the top,’ Jain said. ‘We don’t want to be second, we want to be the best.’
For more information e-mail the team at