Mock Trial offers Armenian students education in American civil system

Issue December 2007 By Kelsey Sadoff

Armenian professionals relied on materials from the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Mock Trial Competition to introduce the mid-career graduate stu- dents to international law.

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University recently launched a special certificate program for Armenian professionals, including em- ployees of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice. Fifteen mid-career graduate students from the Republic of Armenia participated in a six-month program designed to provide an intensive academic approach to international law and legal studies. Upon the completion of the training program, the students are expected to return to Armenia to serve within the government for a minimum of two years.

On Nov. 2, the Trial Advocacy course component of the Fletcher program culminated in a mock trial competition held at the John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.

The Trial Advocacy course, taught by MBA member Donna Daniels Kouyoumjian, Esq., served to broaden student understanding of the American judicial process, and was offered for the first time this fall. The mock trial com-petition utilized case materials created by the 2006 Massachusetts Bar Association’s Mock Trial committee and involved a civil products liability bench trial. For a final exam, the mock trial competition simulated a complete immersion into the American court experience.

This particular case concerned a complaint from an owner of a portable Global Positioning System who, when looking down at the GPS system, misses a posted “no right turn” sign and slams into a truck – leaving the owner’s spouse in a coma.

“The reason I chose the case involving GPS was because I was not sure all the students have automobiles (in their home country),” said Daniels Kouyoumjian. “The spectrum of experience and edu- cation was varied among students and I wanted to make sure they had the technology to challenge them.”

Given the four-week time constraint of the Trial Advocacy course, the Armenian students viewed the 2006 high school competition to gain an accelerated un- derstanding of the civil court system process. However, the students had to learn enough rules of evidence to lay a foundation during the mock trial, a challenge as some of the students had no previous experience with the law.

“This experience was one I wanted them to have to enhance their understanding and exper- ience with the civil process system,” she said.

The Armenian Training Program was made possible by the Tavitian Foundation, which focuses on sponsoring the training of professionals from Armenian agencies with “the objective of bringing a global perspective to their education and outlook.”

“It is wonderful that (Daniels Kouyoumjian) thought highly enough of the case to use it as a learning tool,” said MBA Mock Trial Chair Elliot Loew. “To have students return back home to rebuild their own judiciary – I never thought the materials would serve that kind of purpose.”

Since 1999, the Tavitian Foundation has sponsored and coordinated the design and implementation of five specialized certificate programs for the training of more than 75 young Armenian professionals.

“The Tavitian Foundation is committed to educating a generation of individuals in the ways of the Western world,” said Daniels Kouyoumjian. “When the students return to Armenia, they will participate in discussions on reforming their own judiciary.”