The following Mock Trial Rules & Stipulations have been amended for the 2021 State Competition and now read as follows. Modifications / additions have been highlighted in yellow or struck through for ease of reference. Updated March 4, 2021.
During the course of a competition, a team must present both prosecution/plaintiff and defense/defendant sides of the case using six team members for each side. Each side shall consist of three lawyers and three witnesses.
To promote fairness due to the varying social distancing rules in school districts across the state, team members are not permitted to be in the same room as other teammates or coaches without prior approval from the Mock Trial Chair. All team members are to log into the virtual platform using an ordinary, commercially available, off-the-shelf personal computer, tablet, cellular phone, or similar device. Teams are not permitted to utilize television cameras, studio equipment, or any form of video production hardware or software beyond the videoconferencing platform on which the competition round is being conducted.
All team members participating as attorneys should use a screen name in the following format: Legal Name (P - Attorney) for Plaintiff and Legal Name (D-Attorney) for Defense. All team members participating as witnesses should use a screen name in the following format: Legal Name (Witness Name - P) for Plaintiff Witness and Legal Name (Witness Name – D) for Defense.
The only members of a team allowed to be in the Zoom Courtroom are the team members actually participating in the trial, up to two alternates, a bailiff, and one coach. No additional team members or observers are permitted in the Zoom Courtroom. This means that for each team, there is a maximum of 10 persons admitted in the Zoom Courtroom. Team members and additional coaches and sponsors not participating in the trial or outside of the above-referenced maximum are able to observe the trial through the Youtube link provided. Once the trial begins and all participants have been introduced to the court, only the participants who are competing in a particular trial segment, the judge, and the jurors are permitted to have their camera turned on. All team members who are not actively participating in that trial segment must have their cameras turned off, except for timekeepers turning on their cameras to display remaining time consistent with Rule 13. For purposes of this rule, the witness, direct-examining attorney and crossexamining attorney must have their cameras turned on for the entire witness examination. All coaches and alternates should have their cameras off at all times.
Teams must ensure that no part of the decoration or furniture of the rooms in which a student is competing reveals the name of or information about the school competing. Furthermore, students are not permitted to decorate the room in which the student is competing to enhance the student’s performance. For example, a student playing the role of a lab technician should not have the room decorated to resemble a lab. Similarly, participants are not required to use virtual backgrounds, but if a virtual background is used, it must be either solid black or solid white.
In the event of technical difficulties during the virtual competition, the presiding judge has the discretion to declare a brief recess to resolve any technical difficulty substantially impairing a student’s participation in the trial. If the technical difficulty cannot be resolved within five minutes, then the trial will continue with another member of the impacted team substituting for the impacted team member. The emergency substitute must be a member of the same team as the impacted participant. Please contact your Zoom Host immediately using the chat function or via the cell phone number provided prior to the start of the trial in the event of a difficulty or need for a technology-related recess.
Before making an emergency substitution, an attorney from the impacted team must make the presiding judge aware the substitution. The presentation will be scored based on the performance of the initial team member and the emergency substitute, taken as a whole.
Once a student is substituted because he/she cannot compete due to technical difficulties, to minimize disruption, the impacted student is not permitted to return and compete in the role for which the substitution was made. If the technical difficulty is resolved, the impacted student may return and participate in his/her other roles, if any. For purposes of this rule, a witness examination consisting of direct, cross, any re-direct and any re-cross is one role, so that a student who requires emergency substitution for a witness examination may not return and participate until the entire witness examination is completed.
For purposes of this rule, technical difficulties include internet failure and computer, device, or microphone failure. Failure of a camera does not permit emergency substitution under this rule. Students who lose internet connection are to rejoin the trial using a telephone connection when possible.
In the event a team’s timekeeper loses connection, that team will defer to its opponent’s timekeeper for that trial segment. For the remaining trial segments, the impacted team may substitute another timekeeper, and the substitute timekeeper shall confer with the opposing team’s timekeeper regarding the time remaining.
In the event that a technical emergency prevents an entire team from competing in part or all of a round, the presiding judge shall declare a recess of no more than 15 minutes to allow the team to reconnect either by video or telephonically. Please contact your Zoom Host immediately using the chat function or via the cell phone number provided prior to the start of the trial in the event of a difficulty or need for a technology-related recess. If reconnection is impossible, a forfeit will be declared in favor of the team that maintains its connection. If at least five witness cross-examinations have been completed, the Mock Trial Committee will assign scores equal to their average score on all segments that could not be completed by the disconnected team and a “10” to the team that remained connected.
No student or team may feign technical difficulty or invoke the technical difficulty rule for purposes other than a genuine technical difficulty. The Mock Trial Committee has the discretion to sanction the team for such action up to and including disqualifying the team from the competition.
In all situations other than the technical issues described above, only in the case of an emergency occurring within two hours of a competition round or during a round of competition may a team participate with fewer than six members. In such a case, a team may continue in the competition by making substitutions to achieve a two attorney/three witness composition, or a team may utilize alternates, provided such alternates are listed on the team roster submitted prior to the competition. It is a team’s responsibility to notify the Mock Trial Chair or a member of the Committee if such an emergency arises and permission to proceed pursuant to these emergency procedures must be obtained prior to doing so.
Final determination of emergency, forfeiture, reduction of points, or advancement will be made by the Mock Trial Chair.
Rule 13. Timekeeping
The time limits set forth in Rule 12 are mandatory. Each team is responsible for providing at least one student as an official timekeeper. All timekeepers must be official team members. Timekeepers can signal the time remaining by using the videoconferencing platform’s chatroom.
function or displaying time remaining cards. Except when displaying time remaining cards, timekeepers’ cameras should not be activated.
It is a team’s responsibility to object if its adversary exceeds the time limits. The team timekeeper may not interrupt or disrupt the trial proceedings, and no objection should be made unless and until the adversary exceeds the time limits by more than two minutes. Time does not stop for introduction of exhibits. Time spent during objections, bench conferences, and “jury-out” hearings is not counted as part of the allotted time during examination of witnesses and opening and closing statements.
Rule 20. Trial Communication
With the exception of the 3 attorneys participating in the trial, who may communicate with each other via the chat function, no person shall talk to, signal, communicate with, or coach a trial participant during a trial at either the local or state competition. This rule remains in force during any recess time which may occur during a round.
Similarly, team members participating in the trial shall not communicate with each other during the competition round, including any recess time. The only exceptions to this rule are:
(a) Attorneys participating in the trial many communicate with other attorneys participating in the trial using the chat function, as is customary in live competitions.
(b) Designated scorekeepers may communicate during the trial as provided in Rule 13.
(c) During an emergency recess caused by technical difficulties, coaches may attempt to communicate with the student who is having technical difficulties about those difficulties only, may communicate with the court to advise it of the conclusion of those discussions, and may communicate with the competing team members for purposes of determining whether to substitute a student pursuant to Rule 9.
The Mock Trial Committee may penalize a team for any violation of this rule up to and including disqualifying the team from the competition.
Rule 27. Score Sheet Availability
In the discretion of the Mock Trial Chair, ballots may be made available to any person or team for their team at any time during or after the Division or State competition. Following the Division and State competitions’ conclusion, rankings will be posted on the Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division website and related social media accounts. If technology permits and at the discretion of the Mock Trial Chair, upon request, each team’s coach and team sponsor will be provided with a summary sheet showing, for each round of the competition, the following information:
1. Team Rankings, separated by win/loss brackets
2. Total Ballots won by each team
3. Total Points awarded to each team
These data are provided for informational purposes only. At the conclusion of the State competition, all scores and rankings shall be FINAL and may not be challenged.
Rule 32. Team Roster; Scoresheet
Teams must upload Team Lineup Forms and Call Order Forms to the PROcess page for their trial within ten (10) minutes after their virtual courtroom is assigned on PROcess. All teams and coaches should ensure that the Team Lineup Forms and Call Order Forms are correct for each round in which the team is participating. Errors in the Team Lineup Form or Call Order Form should be brought to the attention of the courtroom Zoom Host using the chat function without disruption of the trial.
Rule 36. Standing During Trial
Due to the competition being held virtually, attorneys may – but are not required to – stand during their presentation to the Court, whether opening, closing, direct examination, or cross-examination.
opening statements and closing arguments; otherwise, attorneys shall remain seated during direct and cross examination and for all objections.
Rule 42. Use of Notes
Attorneys may use notes while presenting the case. Witnesses may NOT use notes while testifying.
7. Teams may not raise objections or defenses based upon procedural defects or constitutional violations. Teams may not assert criminal responsibility or any defense against any non-party person or entity. Teams may, however, question witnesses called during the proceedings to establish motive, opportunity, and intent for persons other than the Defendant if such questioning is consistent with the information contained within such witness’ statement provided.