In just its fourth year of renewed existence, the Mock Trial Organization at the University of Rochester is headed to a national championship tournament. Students will travel to Eastern Kentucky University to compete against 39 other colleges and universities in the American Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament April 11 through 13.

The eight-member team from Rochester qualified for the national meet after placing at a regional tournament at Princeton University last month.

In mock trial competition, teams are supplied with the facts and stipulations surrounding a case. They prepare trial strategies, witness roles, opening and closing statements, and direct and cross-examination questions for both the plaintiff and defense. This year, the students argued a civil case: a liability trial surrounding the death of a child at a parent-sponsored carnival.

At one time, the University of Rochester had a mock trial team, but there had been none for several years by the time current senior and political science major Marc Bressman arrived on campus as a freshman in fall 1999. Bressman, who had participated in mock trial activities at his New Jersey high school, started up a team. The group spent its first year organizing, then competed in and hosted regional tournaments in the spring semesters of 2001 and 2002.

The team has been coached by local attorneys who volunteer their time: Brian Madrazo in the first two seasons of competition, and Julia Cianca during this past academic year.

Students who will compete in the novice championship tournament next month in Richmond, Ky., are: juniors Christine Parvan, a political science major, of Fairport, N.Y., and David Weiner, a psychology and history major, of Spencerport, N.Y.; sophomores Shari-Lynn Cuomo, an English and legal studies major, of West Haven, Conn., Evan Majzner, a political science major, of Morris Plains, N.J., Valerie Rozak, a biology and chemistry major, of Hamburg, N.J., Clarissa Townsend, an economics major, of Midland, Mich., and Richard Wang, an economics and mathematics major, of Newburgh, N.Y.; and freshman James Marra, a political science and history major, of Getzville, N.Y.

The goals of mock trial competition are to give undergraduate students an opportunity to learn first hand about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system, develop critical thinking, and enhance communication skills.