Message from AMTA President Harper and Case Analysis Report

Message from AMTA President Harper and Case Analysis Report

Aug. 15, 2021 - AMTA President Brandon Harper has written the following letter to the AMTA community on the current state of AMTA, along with previewing many new initiatives for the coming year.  In addition to the below letter, AMTA is glad to release the 2021 Analysis Committee Report regarding case balance trends from 2009 to present.


Dear AMTA Community,

Case release is always one of the most exciting days of the AMTA season. With many thanks to our Criminal Case Committee, I am excited to introduce you to Midlands v. Sutcliffe. We hope that you find the case interesting, educational, and fun. While you prepare the new case, the AMTA Board is hard at work making arrangements for this new competitive season. I’d like to take just a few minutes to tell about you what we have been doing and about what we are planning to do.

As we all know, this past year has been challenging. Just over one year ago, the AMTA Board decided that our community would compete online for the very first time. We admittedly didn’t have much of a blueprint and no organization of this size had ever organized online trial advocacy competitions of the scope of AMTA events. Nevertheless, and as I fully expected, the AMTA community met the challenge. Starting with the extraordinary efforts of the One Last Time Committee, we taught the community online mock trial best practices. We also gave seniors whose seasons were cut unexpectedly short one last opportunity to compete. Then, our Academics Committee released a series of guides and resources aimed at teaching the community how to successfully compete online. Those materials remain available on our website and I am thrilled that we were able to bring back One Last Time this year.

As I mentioned last year, for the first time, AMTA empaneled a Diversity & Inclusion Committee, whose chair sits on the Executive Committee. Through that committee, we undertook our most serious and targeted efforts to date to recruit a diverse pool of AMTA judges, including providing for the first time implicit bias training for our evaluators. Diversity and Inclusion were also present throughout AMTA’s work, including with mandatory implicit bias training for all AMTA Representatives. I am grateful to the committee for their good work, but we know there is more to be done.

Another new AMTA initiative was our seventeen member Student Advisory Board. During the course of the year, the SAB met with many of our Directors and Candidates to provide their honest feedback on various meeting motions, proposals, and ideas. The SAB also provided excellent feedback in the weeks and months leading up to the online competition season and then on a weekly basis throughout the season. Last season would not have been the success that it was without these extraordinary students. They represent the broad range of voices, experiences, and perspectives that make our community special, and on behalf of the entire Board, I want to thank them all for their good work and service to the community. I hope to see their applications to serve as AMTA Directors in the coming years. This fall, I will also announce a new Alumni and Coaches Advisory Council, which will provide the current coach and alumni perspective to the board on myriad issues. It is important to me that we continue to give our community a strong and powerful voice, and the SAB and this new Council are steps in that direction.

Although the pandemic slowed down life in many respects, our Tournament Administration Committee was not deterred. Thanks to their foresight, long hours, and serious dedication to our students and our member schools, we were able to host, fairly seamlessly, 41 tournaments including a National Championship Tournament.

As we look ahead, I am excited about what this next year holds. During our July AMTA Board of Director’s meeting, we discussed the myriad challenges still facing our community, including the question whether our 2022 season will take place in person or online. After reviewing input from our community, considering the national trends with respect to COVID-19, and discussing the issue from a number of different and important perspectives, the Board decided that we will plan for in person competitions while developing plans if circumstances across the community change and for hybrid/online options. As always, we want to make sure that as many of our member programs as possible can compete at Regionals, and this decision will further that goal. As the season approaches, we will provide additional guidance about what to expect during the AMTA season, and I am confident that with your help, our competitions will be safe, educational, fun, and exciting.

I also want to acknowledge some of the changes that we are undergoing. I mentioned to my AMTA colleagues when I announced my candidacy for president a couple of years ago that I thought it was important for AMTA to be forward looking, to think about transitioning leadership to the next group of thinkers and doers, and to work purposefully to fulfill our commitment to diversity and inclusion. I am proud that the Executive Committee that I appointed and that the Board approved includes three new members, for a total of five new EC members in the last year. These fresh perspectives will join an experienced group. I am also extremely pleased to announce that for the first time ever, 50% of the voting members of the EC are women.

This transition is made possible thanks to several individuals who will continue their excellent contributions to AMTA in new capacities. Many thanks to Justin Bernstein, who will now chair a new ad hoc committee that I have asked to analyze our invention of fact rules. Thanks to Matthew Eslick, who served ably for many years including as AMTA Treasurer, who has agreed to chair our AMTA Foundation committee. Mike Walsh provided exceptional service on the EC in numerous capacities and is now chairing our Strategic Planning Committee. I also want to acknowledge TAC Chair Missi Watt, without whom we would’t have had tournaments this year. I am excited that Andy Hogan has agreed to serve as the deputy chair of TAC in this year of transition.

Our Ethics and Professionalism Committee has been combined with our Rules and IP Committee, a committee chaired by Elizabeth Smiley with deputy chair and former Ethics Chair Devon Holstad. This combination brings the the Ethics perspective to both the EC and the CRC.

I’d also like to take this time to introduce our First Year Candidate Directors - Maggy Randels Schuette and Elise Wilson. Maggy was instrumental in our judge recruitment efforts this year and Elise has served with distinction on the Civil Case Committee and TAC. Both also served as AMTA Representatives this year. They join Elizabeth Smiley, Zac Mundy, and Samantha Feak, our Second Year Candidate Directors.

We as a community have done a lot in the past year, and we have even more to do this year. My commitments to transition planning, diversity and inclusion, competitive excellence, and transparency remain. We have made great strides, but I’m not satisfied. We can and will do even more.

Thanks to all of our Directors, Candidates and volunteers for your hard work during the past year. Thanks to our volunteer judges, coaches, and supports of our competitors. And thanks to all of the students who competed zealously in the most trying of circumstances. I am excited about the future of this organization and I am thrilled to be walking down this path with each of you.

I hope that you have enjoyed the summer and that you are as excited as we are to dig in to this new case. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you can contact me directly. Best wishes to everyone who begins Midlands v. Sutcliffe today. I hope you see you around the circuit on the #RoadToNCT!


Brandon Harper

AMTA President

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