Arizona Law Students Beat ASU in Jenckes Trial Competition for Sixth Straight Year – 11.13.2015

The streak continues.

For the sixth straight year, University of Arizona Law students topped Arizona State University in the Jenckes Closing Arguments Competition. This year’s event was the 45th meeting between the two schools and took place Friday, Nov. 13 at the ASU campus in Tempe. Arizona Law now leads the series 29-17.

Jim Carlson (above, left) and Matthew Ashton (above, right) represented Arizona Law in this year’s competition. The team prepared with Professor Tom Mauet (above, center), the country’s leading trial technique expert and Jenckes coach for the last 35 years. Ashton says working with Mauet made all the difference.

“Professor Mauet is the best at what he does, and that became that much more clear to me as we were prepping for this competition and working with him everyday,” says Ashton, who is also on Arizona’s National Trial Competition team. “His experience in telling us what will and won’t work, plus his creativity in coming up with catchy little phrases to make the closing that much stronger, made it obvious to me that Professor Mauet is the driving force behind why UA has now won this competition six years in a row. We’re really lucky to have him.”

Two weeks before the showdown, each team receives a partial transcript of an actual court case. It includes witness testimony and evidence but does not include closing arguments. The students use the facts of the case to formulate their own closings, then argue against the other team before a judging panel of up to 40 trial attorneys who are members of the Arizona chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The judges are not told which school competitors attend.

“We met almost every day to practice for a couple hours,” says Carlson, of their prep work, which also included training with Professor Paul Bennett, trial team coaches Joel Feinmann and Brian Chase, and last year’s champion Heather Goodwin. “I had some nerves on the ride up to Tempe, but by the time we were in place I was ready to swing for the fences. When the verdict was announced, it was really exciting, though it didn’t sink in for me until the ride home.”

The winning streak underscores Arizona Law’s rich tradition in civil justice, as highlighted in the new Civil Justice Initiative, which aims to help Arizona Law elevate the American civil justice system and become the premier destination for civil justice research and educating trial lawyers.

“This is one of the best schools in the country for learning to be a trial attorney, thanks to the leadership and teaching of Tom Mauet, the superb faculty team he has built, and the many opportunities for experience in court and in competitions,” says Dean Marc Miller. “We’re proud of the continued success of our superb students.”

Ashton says the experience was an important part of his legal education and laying the foundation for his career.

“For me, this was all about making me an even better trial lawyer,” Ashton says. “I really want to do trial work, tentatively as a criminal prosecutor, and this kind of experience is one of the best ways to learn to be a great trial advocate before you even graduate law school.”

The coveted Jenckes Cup will once again reside in the Arizona Law library until next year’s competition, which will take place in Tucson.