RALEIGH — Campbell Law School rising third-year student Sydney Kraft of Fayetteville has been selected to compete in the 2023 Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition in June, hosted by Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. This is the 14th Top Gun Competition and the second to be held in-person since the pandemic began.
The competition is an innovative, invitation-only mock trial tournament where the single best advocates from the 16 top trial advocacy schools across the nation (based on results from the other major national competitions) go head-to-head for the honor of being designated as “Top Gun.” The competition also boasts the use of advanced trial presentation software and a winner-take-all prize of $10,000.
Don Marcari ’85 is sponsoring Campbell Law’s bid in the competition. Brandon Minella ’24 will accompany Kraft to the competition, said Director of Competitive Advocacy Mary Ann Matney ’17.
During the National Trial Competition (NTC) – Region V, Kraft was named Best Overall Advocate after the preliminary rounds – sweeping every best advocate ballot in every preliminary trial. She was then named Most Outstanding Advocate in her championship round during the NTC Regionals and her team advanced to the 48th annual National Trial Competition (NTC).
Kraft was awarded the law school’s competitive Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship following her 2021 graduation from the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in political science and film, television and theatre. While at Notre Dame, she worked as a TA for a Foundations of Theology professor, served as an ambassador and performer in the Notre Dame Gold and Blue Co. and stage manager for the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. She is a competitive female a cappella vocalist and performed in the Pasquerilla East Musical Company Theatre Group. She also researched, analyzed and wrote a policy memo addressed to the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on how to increase morale through the support of Bill 1433, “Department of Homeland Security Morale, Recognition, Learning and Engagement Act of 2019.”
This Top Gun Competition is Campbell Law’s ninth time securing an invitation to this prestigious tournament. Previously, Campbell Law has had two final four finishes by Andrew Shores ’13 and Kaitlin Rothecker ’15, and two championship victories by Jacob Morse ’17 and Tatiana Terry ’19.
Unlike most trial competitions, Top Gun competitors receive case files merely 24 hours before the first round of the competition begins. With just one day, participants must decipher the most important facts of the case after reviewing hundreds of pages of documents in order to prepare for trial. Competition preparation routinely involves reviewing depositions, records and photographs and analyzing crime scenes or events where the realistic but hypothetical case occurred. Advocates are also assigned witnesses who may be used at their discretion. The jurors and judges for each round of the completion are distinguished trial lawyers and judges, which creates an unparalleled degree of realism in the courtroom.
Top Gun was created in 2010 based on and inspired by Baylor Law’s highly-regarded advocacy program and is a competition radically innovative and uniquely distinct. Unlike other mock trial competitions, participants do not receive the case file until they arrive in Waco, a mere 24 hours before the first round of trials begin. Preparation includes reviewing depositions, records, and photographs, and making a site visit to view the scene where the events occurred. Shortly before each round, competitors are assigned the witnesses who may be used at their discretion during the round. The jurors for each round are distinguished trial lawyers and judges.
Top Gun is singular among advocacy competitions – challenging even the most seasoned and skillful mock trial competitors.
Baylor Law’s Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition has developed a national reputation for its realism and attention to detail. Each year the case packet contains hundreds of pages of exhibits, including multiple depositions, records, photographs, and videos.
Advocates competing in Top Gun’s semi-final and final rounds have the opportunity to examine top-level witnesses who are real-life experts in their fields. Actual forensic investigators, nationally renowned experts in eyewitness issues, university professors, and more have taken the stand to testify during Top Gun, adding a sense of realism rarely found in mock trial competitions.
The quality of Top Gun’s judges is another hallmark of the competition’s excellence. With over eighty judges (made up of both state and federal judges as well as accomplished trial attorneys) and 36 trials unfolding over the course of five days, the real-life trial experience that these judges bring to the competition creates an unparalleled degree of realism.
ABOUT CAMPBELL LAW
Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law School has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, the school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 4,700 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2023, Campbell Law is celebrating 45 years of graduating legal leaders and 14 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.