Please join Professor Catherine Stahl, Director of Trial Advocacy and Coach Stephanie Hall ’13 in congratulating Kheana Pollard ’19, Jacque Donahue ’19, Blake Gibney ’19 and Samantha Swartz ’19 for their outstanding performances in the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge. Kheana Pollard was also named the competition’s Most Professional Advocate for her excellent advocacy throughout the tournament. The Illini team drew the proverbial short straw and competed in a formidable group where the number of strong contestants far outnumbered the qualifying places available for the next phase of the tournament. The Illini team did not let this stroke of bad luck impede its execution as it faced one after another of the nation’s mock trial powerhouses, including the ultimate tournament winner. Our students displayed unwavering skill and determination throughout the event and just missed the cut off for advancement to the elimination rounds by the slimmest of margins. The team also had an incredible opportunity to connect with alumnus John Bradford ’80, of Counsel, Liskow & Lewis, and James English ’08, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, who came to cheer on the Illini and provided support and mentorship throughout the competition.
On the first day of competition our plaintiff’s team Jacque Donahue and Samantha Swartz showed fortitude and resiliency as they encountered the University of Georgia – the tournament’s defending champion and the ultimate winner of this year’s competition. Samantha (opening) and Jacque (closing argument) delivered compelling statements and demonstrated that they had an extraordinary handle on the facts and the evidence of the case. By the end of this initial round, Jacque and Samantha proved to all present that the College of Law was a force in its own right and a team to be reckoned with at this competition.
When our defense team took center stage, they faced both Baylor – ultimately one of this year’s semifinalists and then they confronted Georgetown – winner of the competition’s Outstanding Brief Award. The judges – local Texas practitioners – praised the skills of Blake Gibney and Kheana Pollard stating that the round against Baylor was the best round of the competition. Blake’s powerful opening statement and focused evidentiary objections made a strong impression on the judging panel. The judges also raved about Kheana’s closing argument, describing her performance as a “mic drop moment”.
Professor Stahl and Coach Hall are proud of the team and believe each student was able to shine in his or her unique way. Professor Stahl stated, “The dedication of our students and coaches is amazing and contributes greatly to the overall success of our program. The tremendous efforts of Coach Hall were critical to the team’s top performances this year.” The College would also like to thank all who provided special assistance to the Houston team this term, including John Bradford ’80, James English ’08, Dean Eric Johnson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor Scott Szala, Dean Bill Turner, Assistant Dean for Advancement, and Thanin Stewart ’17, Trial Advocacy Visiting Law Associate.