Introducing the 2016 Season: Part 2


Hello, Empire Family!!!! It’s Sydney Franklin, again, your Empire Emcee, here to give you another sneak peak at the upcoming Empire season.  In the second half of my chat with Justin (Empire’s Executive Director), we talked about the BIG changes in store for EMPIRE NEW YORK.

Empire TEN, wow! How old must you feel?!?!
Old. Thanks for that, Sydney.

As you should. You’ve been doing this for nearly a decade now!
(no response)

So, Times Square! What does the courthouse look like?  Does it have neon lights and billboards and lots of people…
Ha, the courthouse isn’t in Times Square. The trials are still taking place in good ole’ downtown Brooklyn.

Then what’s going on in Times Square…?
We’re all staying there—students and staff.  Both ceremonies are being held there—the Opening Ceremony on Friday morning and the Closing Ceremony on Sunday evening.  We’ll also have scrimmage rooms available for the teams.

And this will all be at the Crowne Plaza hotel?

How far is the hotel from Times Square?
It is literally in the heart of it.  It’s a 5 minute walk from One Times Square (the site of the New Year’s Eve celebration).  Many of our students will be able to see the lights from the windows of their hotel room.    

I’m very excited for this but I can’t help but think of the old saying, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it—so after nine successful years, why the move?
That’s a totally fair and reasonable question.

Which is why I asked it.
Two reasons. Experience and cost. Schools participate in Empire New York for competitive mock trials but they also love exploring the city and immersing themselves in its culture. This move brings New York City from the backdrop of the program to the forefront. Students are now in walking distance of Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Madison Square, and so much more. Students are busy while at Empire—many scrimmage and practice. This move allows them to maximize their free time and see as much of the city as possible.

CHILLS, what fun!  You mentioned something about cost—I’m sure our readers are concerned about that because the Big Apple is expensive…
That’s something we were worried about, too.  But I’m really excited to announce that everything from the hotel side will be less expensive this year—guest rooms and scrimmage rooms.  Additionally, the price of your room will include a shuttle bus that will bring teams from the hotel to the courthouse in the morning and back at night.  

Wow, so it’s actually cheaper to stay in Times Square?
Yes.  All things considered, it will cost less than it did last year to participate.

And teams don’t have to get from Brooklyn to Times Square by themselves?
Correct.  Like in Atlanta, we’ll assign teams to shuttle buses.  They’ll have bus leaders and we’ll bring them to the courthouse in the morning and back at night. Teams are welcome to travel on their own but we’re offering a shuttle service for everyone.

Is it November yet?!?!?
No, thankfully.  We’re not quite ready for teams!

Okay, is there ANYTHING else you want to tell us before introducing our big Empire NY competition change…
One more thing.  We’re hosting a Tenth Anniversary Empire New York event at the Tower One Observatory.

WOW. For those non-New Yawkers… tell us about Tower One.
It just opened last year at the site of the World Trade Center.  As you may know, the footprint of the Twin Towers was turned into the 9/11 memorial.  Tower One was built alongside it.  At 104 stories tall, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

And what will teams have the opportunity to do?
Both go to the Observatory and spend some time viewing the 9/11 Memorial.  

Have you been to the Observatory before?
I have.

What did you think?
It is a special place—almost sacred.  Words can’t describe it, really.  The views of New York are the best in the City.  I grew up here and I hadn’t seen anything like it before.  I think it’ll be an amazing opportunity for the students and we hope that everyone takes advantage of it.



Okay, you’ve hinted to me that there is a special guest coming to Empire X.   My lips have been sealed until now, but I’m dying to know… WHO is it?
There are two guests, actually.

Two?!?  Beyoncé and who else?!?!
Not celebrities, Franklin. They’re witnesses. Each trial at Empire New York will feature two guest witnesses.

Huh. What does that even mean? What is a guest witness?
I think the easiest way for me to explain is to act as if you were competing at Empire New York this year…

Yay, I wish I was!
I’m sure Mr. Myers (former coach) doesn’t.

Hey!  Just stick to telling us about our guests…
Here it goes.  A Guest Witness (“GW”) is a student from
another school who will compete with your team for a single trial.  She/he will testify as one of your three (3) witnesses.

Likewise, it’s also a student from your team that will compete for another school for a single trial, testifying as one of that team’s three witnesses.

So what you’re saying is that if I were still an attorney at Empire New York, I’d have to direct a student from ANOTHER school.
Well, not necessarily you.  But someone from your team would, yes.  

Is this guest witness in addition to the traditional three (3) witnesses—as in, are there now four (4) witnesses per side per trial?
No.  It’s in place of a traditional witness.  So you’d call two (2) witnesses from your own team to the stand and one (1) witness from another school.

Ahh, I have so many questions!  Do I get to pick which character is my guest witness in a trial?
Kind of.  There will be five (5) affidavits per side, like last year.  We’ll give each team a choice of two (2) characters per side that can be portrayed as the guest witness. You’ll announce your witness lineup in a pre-trial conference (like usual) but you’ll also need to specify which character is your guest witness (i.e. which character will be portrayed by a student from another team).  You must call one of the two possible GWs.

I think I’m following but give me an example.
Sure.  Let’s take last year’s case.  There were 5 affidavits per side.  Let’s imagine that the case declared Conmey & Johnson as the potential Plaintiff GWs, and Cooper & Smith as the potential Defense GWs.  At the pre-trial conference, the Plaintiff team would announce whether their GW would be Conmey or Johnson; the Defense would announce whether Cooper or Smith would be their GW.

Let’s pretend that the Plaintiff selected Conmey and the Defense selected Smith.  That means each of those witnesses would be portrayed by a student from a different school.

Okay.  This is making more sense.  Could my team call BOTH Conmey & Johnson, for example?
Sure, but you’d have to specify which is your Guest Witness.  So in a case in which you wanted to call both witnesses, one would be portrayed by your teammate, let’s call her Megan, and the other would be portrayed by a student from another team.

Got it!   What happens after the GWs are exchanged?
Two things.  First, we announce the guest witness assignments—we’ll tell you which student from which team is playing your GW.  Second, each team will get 30 minutes to prep their guest witness for trial.  That meeting can only include the guest witness and attorneys from the competing team—no coaches or advisers.

This sounds REALLY fun.  A few more questions for you.  How are the GWs assigned or paired?
Empire NY features two (2) divisions of teams and we’ll assign GWs from Division 1 to teams in Division 2, and vice versa.  GWs will be assigned in pairs both for purposes of simplicity and fairness.   Our goal is to keep the GW assignments as balanced as possible so we’ll use a power pairing method of assigning GWs (i.e. the #1 ranked round in Division 1 will receive GWs from the #1 ranked round in Division 2).

Let’s look at an example.

P = Prosecution     D = Defense     GW = Guest Witness

Division 1 match-up

Franklin Academy (P)
GW from Myers High School
v. Rosier High School (D)
GW from Beck School

Division 2 match-up

Myers High School (P)
GW from Franklin Academy
v. Beck School (D)
GW from Rosier High School

Very helpful!  Of course, every mocker cares about scoring.  Talk to me about how this works from a scoring standpoint…
It won’t be complicated at all.  So in the above rounds, the score for the GW testifying for Franklin Academy (again, a student from Myers High School) will count toward Myers HS’s ballot / scorecard and not Franklin Academy’s.  Using a computer program, our system will average the three (3) direct scores and the three (3) cross scores, and then attribute those scores to the respective team’s ballot for the given round.  The same goes for the Franklin Academy witness testifying in the Myers High School trial.  This ensures that all GWs have an incentive to provide teams with the best possible testimony.  

When the round is over and the tabulation has been completed, teams will have a chance to see their ballot(s), which will include their GW score.

If I’m an attorney for my team, can I direct my GW on each side of the case?
No.  Both for educational and pairing purposes, you must have a different attorney direct the GW on each side of the case.  So, for instance, you could direct the GW in both prosecution rounds, and your teammate Tiye could direct the GW in both defense rounds.

What if I’m a witnesscan I be the GW on both sides of the case?
Sure, but it’s not recommended.  Since the team calling the GW controls the GW’s role, it would be challenging for you as you’d need to learn four (4) potential roles (2 on each side).

What if I’m up for the challenge?
Then go for it.

Ha, why would it be a challenge?
Well, think about the example from last year’s case.  If you’re a Plaintiff GW, you would need to prepare a role for Conmey and Johnson since the team that is calling the GW controls your role.  If you only prepared Conmey and the team called Johnson, then you’d be in trouble.  If you’re a GW for both sides, you’d need to prepare four (4) roles.

If our readers have made it this far, we THANK them for their patience!
I second that.  Thank you.

So we’ll wrap it up now with one final question… this is a fairly radical change, why are we going in this direction?
Many lawyers won’t have 3 hours, let alone 3 months to prepare and practice a direct examination with their witness.  This change will make trials more like real trial practice and the competition more rigorous.  Attorneys will have to really listen to what their witness (GW) is saying to ensure that all necessary information has been elicited, while the GW will need to carefully listen to their attorney’s question so she/he can provide relevant and responsive testimony.  Additionally, this new model will encourage collaboration, civility and sportsmanship between students from different teams, all of which are fundamental to our mission.

Thank you, Justin!

If this hasn’t got you excited enough, I’ll leave you with the EMPIRE X TRAILER… I CANNOT WAIT FOR NOVEMBER.

Empire X Trailer


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