WSU’s Mock Trial Team has won an invitation to compete at the American Mock Trial Association’s national tournament, placing WSU’s law program alongside universities with national law reputations for the first time ever.

The 2006 tournament will be hosted by Stetson Law School in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 10-12.

WSU took two teams to the Portland Regional Qualifier Tournament Feb. 10-11 and had a strong showing. The eight members of the winning team are Tristan Bullington, Sheila Gluzer, Robert Colbert, Kari Dixon, Amy DeSantis, Neil Wilson, Annabel Defty and Gordon Peterson.

“There were 21 teams from nine schools at the regional competition,” said Mitchell Pickerill, assistant professor of political science and WSU’s mock trial coach. According to Pickerill the annual powerhouse schools are Stanford, Berkeley and Gonzaga. WSU was the only school other than those three to receive a bid to nationals.

“Our number one team not only won the bid to the national tournament, but one member, WSU senior Tristan Bullington, also won a ‘best attorney’ award,” Pickerill said. “Most importantly from my vantage point, they represented WSU well.”

Bullington’s “Outstanding Attorney Award” marked the first time a WSU student has won the distinction. “I was proud and honored to be the first person to win this award at WSU,” said Bullington, a philosophy major who will attend law school in the fall. He has been accepted to the College of William and Mary and the University of Illinois but is waiting to hear from Cornell and Vanderbilt before making a decision on which school to attend.

In addition to the invitation to compete nationally, WSU’s team was named runner-up for the “Spirit of AMTA Award,” which recognizes teams that demonstrate justice, civility and fair play, values AMTA extols.

Mock trial participation at WSU is an extracurricular activity and according to Pickerill it is a big commitment. “The students meet every Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. beginning in September. They had to learn the facts of this hypothetical kidnapping case, courtroom decorum and relevant law. They made a trip to Spokane in November to scrimmage teams from Eastern Washington University, and then attended an invitational tournament at Gonzaga Law School in January. In my experience, it is rare to see students work so hard for something whose reward is really just a sense of personal accomplishment and pride,” Pickerill said.

“The commitment to pre-law students at WSU is evident by the newly created University Pre-Law center,” said Josh Knudson, development director of the College of Liberal Arts. “The group, made up of attorneys who are alumni, has the express purpose of supporting pre-law students through advising, scholarships, a mentor program, speakers and other experiences such as internships and the Mock Trial Team.”

Mock Trial Team trips are made possible through funding and support from the University Pre-Law center and a other university and community groups, including the College of Liberal Arts and the departments of Political Science, History and Philosophy.

The team recognizes the contribution of Denise Mowder, a graduate student in criminal justice and a former prosecutor who served as attorney coach for the team and will travel to nationals. Dan Donlan, WSU alum, volunteer leader of the WSU Pre-Law Center and attorney at Lane Powell in Seattle, is credited with support the team calls “instrumental.” The team also credits the expertise of Tim Gresbeck, a local attorney.