For the second time in school history, the St. Thomas University College of Law Trial Team brings home the Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition first-place trophy. The competition took place on January 20-22, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The Bedell Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions in Florida and it is hosted by the Trial Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar.
St. Thomas Law sent two teams. The team of Gabriela Matos (3L), Natalie Godoy (3L), Sophia Carrasco (3L), and Laura Marino (3L) faced FIU College of Law and Cooley Law School in the preliminaries. They went undefeated and were ranked fourth going into the quarterfinals, where they advocated against FIU’s second team. They did not advance, having lost by split decision in a closely contested round (2-1).
The team of Conor Sloan (3L), Valentina Grizales (2L), Vanessa Guiracoche (2L), and Michael Rizo (2L) faced Barry University School of Law and the University of Miami School of Law in the preliminaries of the competition. They went undefeated and were ranked number one going into the quarterfinals, where they advocated against FIU. The team would go on to defeat FIU, Nova University College of Law, and FIU’s second team in the finals to win the 2023 Chester Bedell Mock Trial Championship. Michael Rizo won the “Best Advocate Award” for the overall competition.
“I am immensely impressed by the high quality of performance of our mock trial teams. This first-place win in one of the most prestigious competitions gives us a chance to see their excellence and dedication through many otherwise unseen hours of hard work. This is what it is all really about!” said Interim Dean John Makdisi.
The coaching team who made a great effort in preparing the two teams included St. Thomas Law alumni Professor Houson Lafrance, Gabriela Espaillat, Katerine Lopez, and Melissa Respeto.
“This victory is a testament to the students, coaches, and alumni who have embraced our standard of excellence,” expressed Professor Houson Lafrance, St. Thomas Law’s Trial Team Faculty Advisor. “For me personally, it has been eight years as a coach/faculty advisor trying to win the “Super Bowl” of Mock Trial in Florida. We have come close a few times before, but this team completed the mission for all of us alumni of the trial team who were part of the prior competitions as a coach or student. The pure jubilation from our alumni has been outstanding and as Faculty Advisor I am happy to add another trophy to our overwhelmingly filled trophy case,” he said.
The St. Thomas Law Trial Team is an honors organization that is comprised of students who have demonstrated exceptional ability in trial advocacy. The STU Trial Team takes pride on its tradition and history of excellence and success as it is one of the top teams in the nation with an outstanding record of numerous regional and national championships as well as individual student awards. The Team follows a standard of “excellence demands consistency” which demands its members to uphold a commitment to excellence and refusal to be outworked.
Watch the final round of the Bedell competition HERE.