The Catholic University of America



(From L to R: John Sharifi, Taylor Dontje, Jennifer Brooker, Vania Smith,
Patrick Elwell, and Lindsey Cloud Mervis)


CUA Law has Impressive Performance at the In Vino Veritas Trial Competition

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The CUA National Trial Team begins its academic year with an impressive performance, winning third place overall at the In Vino Veritas Trial Competition in San Francisco as well as an individual award for the tournament’s best cross-examination.

Patrick Elwell (4E), Vania Smith (3E), Jennifer Brooker (3E), and Taylor Dontje (2L) represented the law school this past weekend in a competition that hosted some of the best trial advocacy programs in the country. The competition centered on a complex tax fraud case involving a multimillion dollar vineyard, international shipping, and cutting edge blockchain technology. Trying the case were Ms. Brooker and Mr. Elwell on behalf of the Government, and Ms. Smith and Ms. Dontje on behalf of the defendant. Each side developed theories of the case, witness examinations, and opening and closing arguments. They also prepared for every evidentiary issue that may arise during the course of trial.

The tournament began with two preliminary rounds during which CUA competed against Southern Methodist University and the University of South Dakota, and subsequently advanced to the quarterfinals. CUA then defeated the team from Barry University to advance to the semifinals against John Marshall Law School. In a close trial, the team ultimately fell short to John Marshall. However, the team’s outstanding performances and high scores throughout earned CUA Law a third place finish in the tournament. The excellent result was particularly gratifying for returning trial team members after having been eliminated in the quarterfinals of this same tournament last year.

The law school’s success at the competition was not just limited to their securing third place. Vania Smith’s (pictured to the left with John Sharifi and Lindsey Cloud Mervis) cross-examination of the Government’s key witness earned her an individual award for the best cross-examination of the entire tournament. The award reflects Ms. Smith’s technically superior, well-thought out, and persuasive questioning.

“The team performed very well and everyone is pleased with the results. Returning members continued to excel and provided great leadership for our new members, who performed like veterans themselves,” said National Trial Team Director John N. Sharifi.

The In Vino Veritas Trial Competition was hosted by Golden Gate University School of Law, and took place from October 19-21, 2018.

The National Trial Team’s next competition takes place next month in Buffalo, New York.