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Department ofPolitical Science


Maria Parker, Mary Pat Peterson, Brad Lewinski, Mario Sarich

Maria Parker, Mary Pat Peterson, Brad Lewinski, Mario Sarich

Taking Charge of the Court

SCU students compete in a national Mock Trial tournament focused on developing a foundational knowledge of legal practices in youth.

SCU students compete in a national Mock Trial tournament focused on developing a foundational knowledge of legal practices in youth.

By Shantala Jennings ’27

Evan Fine and Mary Pat Peterson
Evan Fine '25, Mary Pat Peterson '23

As the next generation of leaders, SCU students interested in careers in a legal field need to understand legal frameworks that govern our society. One way students can get hands-on experience with this while on campus is through SCU’s Mock Trial team. Mary Pat Peterson '23, a Political Science major and former president of the SCU Mock Trial club, became the first SCU student to participate in the American Mock Trial Associations’s esteemed Trial-by-Combat (TBC) tournament last spring. Established to help undergraduate students learn about the fundamental aspects of law, the Association holds this national championship each year, where 22 students are selected from all over the nation to represent schools as attorneys in a live-streamed competition. Peterson worked alongside Evan Fine ’25 (Political Science and Music), who served as a witness in the TBC case. During the competition, the Association delivered a challenging case study in which students conducted in-depth research and prepared a mock trial presentation in 24 hours. The teams were examined for their ability to offer a clear, logical, and persuasive case study. Under the guidance of coaches Maria Parker ’21 (Philosophy and Political Science), Mario Sarich, and Brad Lewinski ’21 (Philosophy), the duo successfully advanced to the semi-finals where they competed against a team from Brown University.

During the match, Peterson demonstrated her ability to develop a clear argument and a captivating story. “Peterson certainly stepped up to the challenge,” Parker says. “Her performance was dynamic, precise, and unflinching. I was honored to be there as her coach. I can’t wait to see the new heights the program will undoubtedly reach in the future,” she explains.

Since its founding in 2017, the SCU Mock Trial team has overcome many challenges thanks to their unwavering commitment. "In my first year [at Santa Clara], I founded the Santa Clara mock trial team,” said Parker. “We had no coach, no funding, and received no tournament invitations. But mock trial imparts valuable skills to its students that aren’t the focus in traditional classrooms: public speaking, persuasive argument, and thinking on one’s feet under pressure,” she added. “So we kept at it. Having one of our students compete in the most prestigious and selective solo competitions in the country only five years later is a testament to how far the program has come."

Undoubtedly, the mock trial team has made remarkable progress under the leadership of Peterson, who served as president for two years after Parker. Her interest in Mock Trials was cultivated by her passion for law. Furthermore, she engaged in other extracurricular activities while attending Santa Clara, such as serving as an Associate Justice in the Associated Student Government. Peterson is currently attending Notre Dame Law School and plans to practice immigration and environmental law after completing her degree. Her time at SCU and involvement with the mock trial team have contributed to the skills she’ll need to succeed in the legal profession. She expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to compete in the TBC tournament and extended her thanks to her coaches, who gave support to SCU Mock Trial throughout the year. “Without the training and guidance of our coaches, Maria Parker, Mario Sarich, and Brad Lewinski, I never would have made it to TBC."

ps home, student story

Maria Parker '21, Mary Pat Peterson '23, Brad Lewinski '21, Mario Sarich