Mock Trial Holds First Nationwide Invitational “Dr. Michael Engelhardt Throwdown”


Peter Stelter (’21) (Attorney) and Katie Andreasen (’22) (Witness) run a direct examination for the defense.

On the 16th and 17th of January, the Luther College Mock Trial team presented the inaugural “Dr. Michael Engelhardt Throwdown”. This tournament is the first nationwide mock trial invitational to be held by Luther College, and was hosted virtually through Zoom. A total of 18 school teams participated in the event from across the country.

The name of the event was voted upon by the Luther College mock trial team, who chose to christen it in honor of their faculty adviser, Professor of Political Science Michael Engelhardt, who has been passionately involved in training and coaching the school’s mock trial team for more than 20 years.
“We all decided to come up with some name ideas and we trickled them down to the ones that the majority voted on, where we eventually came up with the ‘Dr. Michael Engelhardt Throwdown,” Aiden Berdahl (’21), one of the tournament directors, said. “We thought it would be good to honor Dr. Engelhardt for all the work, love, and attention that he puts in for the mock trial team, and he has been running it for so many years. Also, we want it to be called a ‘throwdown’, which is a little less formal and keeps everything a little light, especially in the Zoom period of mock trial.”

With the pandemic forcing in-person group activities into online meetings, many mock trial tournaments have had to be postponed or limited this year. Wishing for an opportunity to practice and compete, the Luther team decided to host a virtual tournament for themselves and teams across the nation.
“The mock trial season for this year has been radically changed because all the tournaments are online to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” Professor Engelhardt said. “We got into two tournaments, but we wanted to do more before the regional tournaments in February. We figured other teams must have the same problem, and we wanted to start our own tournament so that other teams can come and get some practice.”

The civil case which the teams competed with involved a wedding rehearsal dinner which led to the death of one of the fiances; this could be the bride or the groom, because the names of the couple were made gender-neutral. During the tournament, teams acted as either the plaintiff or defense of the case. As the plaintiff, students can choose to either charge the winery owner with battery or charge the winery with negligence. As the defense, competitors must argue against these chargers.

At the event, Luther’s A team finished third of 18 teams in the tournament with a record of 6-2. Meta Miller (‘21) won an Outstanding Witness Award on both the plaintiff and defense, and Kyle Brusco (‘22) won an Outstanding Attorney Award. Luther’s B team went 0-8 and C team went 1-7. Teams from Arizona State University finished both first and second at the tournament, with Kennesaw State and the University of Southern California rounding out the top five.
“We feel that our tournament was a success,” Maddie Gregurek (‘22), one of the tournament directors, said. “We did run into a few tech issues due to a third party provider, but the preparation of the tournament planning committee allowed us to get past it. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to host, and enjoyed meeting so many wonderful professionals.”