SGA president pushes for mock courtroom

Photo by: Tyler Mendez UT Dallas Student courtroom

Photo by: Tyler Mendez
UT Dallas Student courtroom

Student Government Association President Tyler Mendez graduates in May, and he wants to leave behind a legacy.

That legacy is a space on the Texas Wesleyan campus for a mock courtroom where students can practice moot court, mediation, and similar competitions.

“This is something we need,” said Mendez, who will graduate with a political science degree with a pre-law emphasis and an English degree with a writing concentration. “For people that know how much the fire pit project meant to me–A LOT–then multiply that by ten.”

The courtroom could also be used to host debate tournaments and serve as a classroom, Mendez said.

“Any student may use the space,”  he said. “This would be good marketing for the school’s pre-law program. This would draw more student to the university. It would get our name out there, like another billboard.”

Mendez and Stephanie Darbo, a political science major who graduated in 2012, started this project with Dr. Michelle Payne, assistant professor of political science, in 2011, Mendez said.

Mendez estimates the courtroom will cost around $30,000 to $35,000. The cost includes a jury box, judge’s bench, and all necessary materials.

Mendez used the mock courtroom at the University of Texas at Dallas as an example of the sort of courtroom he would like at Wesleyan.

Mendez and Darbo wrote a $10,000 bill for the project that was passed by SGA in 2012.

Elizabeth Ardanowski, a lawyer and adjunct professor who teaches communications law and ethics at Wesleyan, said the mock courtroom would be a great addition to the university.

“It is a big deal,” she said. “It draws new attraction to the university.”

Moot court is a great way for pre-law and paralegal students to learn about what to do and not do in a courtroom, she said.

“It’s one thing to read about courtrooms and trials,” she said, but it’s another to actually experience them.

“Learning how to act in a courtroom on a daily basis is extremely important,” she said. “You can learn the actual mechanics and flow of a courtroom.”

Any students who may find themselves going into a career area that is likely to require that they spend part of their life in a courtroom could easily benefit from a mock courtroom at Wesleyan, Ardanowski said.

“Engineering students for example could end up being an expert witness in cases due to their engineering knowledge,” she said.

Even nursing and forensic science students could benefit by learning how to testify in criminal cases because testifying is a part of their job, Ardanowski said.

Mendez said the project should be finished by the summer or fall of 2015.

“I have no intention of quitting now,” he said. “I am prepared to work with whoever I have to in order to honor my promise. I want to see it to the end.”

One of the biggest issues for the project is finding space for the courtroom, Mendez said.

“It is a complex project and every year we face the same problem,” he said. “Wesleyan being the small campus it is pushes numerous organizations, departments, and people to fight for office space.”

Chris Shaddix, a senior pre-law major, said Mendez has been a great SGA president and would love to see a courtroom on this campus.

“Mendez has been an incredible leader and role model for our school and I am extremely excited to see what he is further able to bring to the campus with the mock courtroom,” Shaddix said.

Mendez said the courtroom project is not just important for pre-law majors.

“It is about the big picture, setting an example,” he said. “If you want something that will better enhance your education for your career then you have to do something about it.”

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