ATHENS, Ga. -- The University of Georgia School of Law staked a new claim of excellence when it won the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) Mock Trial Competition in Denver, Colorado last month, becoming the only law school in recent history to win both the ATLA National Championship and the National Moot Court Competition in the same year. (ATLA's record of tournament winners only goes back to 1989, so we could not compare the entire history of the two tournaments.)

The ATLA victory represents the first national title for UGA's mock trial program. "We are excited about the mock trial students' impressive accomplishment," said Dean Ned Spurgeon. "Their success, coupled with that of the moot court teams, demonstrates to a national audience the excellence of our students and the superb quality of advocacy training they receive at the University of Georgia."

UGA sent two mock trial teams to the ATLA tournament after sweeping the regional competition in Savannah. In Denver, both teams reached the top eight (quarterfinals) of the competition in a field of 25 finalists from 12 regions. More than 190 teams originally entered the tournament.

"The ATLA team members and their coach performed in a manner that was a model of professionalism," said mock trial faculty advisor Ron Carlson. "I'm proud of our trial program for bringing home this major championship to the University of Georgia."

UGA's championship team consisted of second-year student Kriste Richardson and third-year student Blaine Norris serving as attorneys, with second-year student Andy Childers and first-year student Marcy Hanks serving as witnesses. The Richardson/Norris team posted a perfect 6-0 record in the tournament, with victories over San Diego, Cumberland, and Cal. Western in the preliminary rounds; Montana in the quarterfinals; Tulane in the semifinals; and Stetson in the final round.

UGA's quarterfinalist team was comprised of third-year students Kevin Gonzalez, Christy Calbos and Ledondria Hunter, and second-year student Sean Hynes, who alternated the roles of witness and attorney depending on the side of the case drawn in each match-up.

"I was cautiously confident of our chances at the national level, being that we were one of only three schools to advance two teams from the regionals," said mock trial coach Ralph Powell, an Athens attorney. "Still, winning such a competitive mock trial tournament takes preparation and talent -- and we had both. The students performed the best that they ever had."

ATLA is the largest trial law organization in the country, and the UGA championship team will be recognized during the group's annual meeting in San Diego this July.

Students in a mock trial competition act as both attorneys and witnesses in a hypothetical trial. The ATLA case dealt with a sexual harassment charge brought by a young woman who had attempted suicide and claimed a technician had raped her in the psychiatric hospital where she had been sent for treatment.

Earlier this season, UGA mock trial teams ranked first among Georgia law schools in the Southeast Regional Mock Trial Tournament, marking the fifth consecutive year UGA has been recognized as the best in the state. Two UGA mock trial teams also reached the finals of the Southeast Regional Mock Trial Competition.

University of Georgia President Charles B. Knapp congratulated the ATLA National Champions and presented them with a resolution in honor of their accomplishment. (Seated, l. to r.): Team members Blaine Norris, Marcy Hanks, Andy Childers, and Kriste Richardson. (Standing, l. to r.): Faculty Advisor Ron Carlson; President Knapp; Coach Ralph Powell; and Dean Ned Spurgeon.