In March, a six-member homeschooled moot court team called “Team Invictus” took sixth place in 2019’s FLREA High School Mock Trial Competition. The team was coached by Maria Gerber of Gerber Law, PA, and teacher-coach Lisa James. The students represented the 12th Judicial Circuit in a three-day, statewide competition involving 18 teams.

More recently, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s Moot Court team scored well in the American Moot Court Association’s national tournament. The team finished in the Top 16, or the top 3% of the tournament. This team was also coached by Maria Gerber.

Moot court is a mock trial or appellate argument performed by students. Typically, students take on the roles of the attorneys and witnesses and make their arguments before judges played by real jurists or local attorneys.

Team Invictus takes sixth place

Team Invictus tried a moot vehicular homicide/manslaughter case in front of judges played by attorneys and circuit and county judges. They were up against other teams from Pinellas, Monroe and Charlotte counties. One student, Cassy James, presented opening statements, while another, Grant Gerber, cross-examined witnesses. Other team members, Katie James, Cassandra Cater and Thomas Walter played witnesses. Walter, specifically, played a homicide detective and forensic analyst and won a top witness award.

The team will return next year to the 12th Judicial Circuit competition in the hopes of going on to nationals.

USFSM scores in top 3% nationally

Students Trace Gerber and Anna Zomer competed against a national slate of teams in the American Moot Court Association’s nationals. They outranked teams from Yale, Duke and Loyola, placing in the top 16 teams. Over 400 teams were eliminated, and this was the first time the University of South Florida has sent a team to nationals.

This competition simulated an appellate argument. The students were expected to perform oral arguments that cited court precedent and contained a legal analysis. The arguments were judged by local attorneys in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Moot Court provides a wonderful opportunity to practice our advocacy skills in a highly competitive environment,” said Trace Gerber. “Students get firsthand experience in a courtroom and in front of well-qualified judges and individuals. It’s also great experience for those who wish to go to law school.”

One of the judges commented that Gerber “spoke smoothly, forcefully and impressively answered difficult questions from the judges.” He also complimented Zomer on her “perfect, professional and sophisticated demeanor.”

Maria Gerber noted that moot court competitions aren’t just for students considering law school. “The skills they develop, regardless of whether they ultimately attend law school, will continue to serve them well. In any career path they take, they will need to think critically and speak persuasively,” she said.