Howard Law Beats Harvard Law

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Last month, Howard University Law School's mock trial advocacy team beat two-time reigning champion Harvard Law in the American Bar Association's Mock Trial Competition. Ed Gordon talks with team captain Errick Simmons, who's also president of Howard University Law School's graduating class of 2005.

ED GORDON, host:

Last month, a team representing Howard Law School beat two-time reigning champion Harvard Law in the American Bar Association's mock trial competition. Howard beat out 18 other teams and became the first historically black college or university to place number one at the competition. Nisha Brooks represented Howard Law.

Ms. NISHA BROOKS (Howard Law School Student): Howard produces excellent students. You put your mind to it, you determine to do it, then you can accomplish anything.

GORDON: Other team members include Derick Simmons, Chris Stewart and Adonna Bannister. I spoke with team captain Errick Simmons, who's also the president of the 2005 Howard Law School graduating class.

Talk to me about the idea of going up against Harvard. Now that it's over and you've spanked 'em, were you guys intimidated at all?

Mr. ERRICK SIMMONS (Howard Law School Graduating Class President): Not at all, Ed. Coming from Howard University, it was absolutely a pleasure. We welcome the competition from Harvard, from Yale, from all the Ivy League schools. It's just a level of competition that we prepare for. It consists of 24-hour days in preparing for the unexpected. So we're going against these schools. We never know what they're doing, so we stay up and think about the Harvard or think about the Yale--the universities that have the claim to fame that we so happen to want to, you know, beat up and spank. So we absolutely did that.

GORDON: What did you argue?

Mr. SIMMONS: Well, we argued a case--it was a criminal case--and the guy was charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine and the intent to deliver marijuana and cocaine. So our team consisted of young, energetic, zealous representatives who were split up in representing each side. And if you go to each round, you don't know what round you are, so they say, `OK, you're going to be prosecution at this half-hour. You're going against John Hopkins,' or we went against Brooklyn, and they were the defense.

GORDON: When you look back at this down the line as you get older and you reflect on, you know, highlights in your life, I suspect this is going to be one of them, right?

Mr. SIMMONS: Yes, absolutely. This victory represented the very best in effort and dedication and preparation that we exhibited, coming from a black law school, the only black law school in the competition to defeat all of these Ivy League schools. So it's really a wonderful experience.

GORDON: Let me ask you this. How much did that way on your mind either before, during or after the fact that this is the first HBCU to win the competition, and the idea that as much as we have advanced as a community, we still today--to a great degree, still represent each other.

Mr. SIMMONS: We absolutely do. It placed in our mind dedication, excellence for African-Americans across the world. We knew that the bar was raised--not raised by the level of competition at that particular competition, Ed--but, more importantly, by our community, and knowing that those who laid the groundwork, like Johnnie Cochran, those who have fought the fight knowing that the fight has continued--and after the win, I told the team that this was indeed a true sign that, after the passing of Johnnie Cochran Jr., an HBCU--African-American law students--won a national competition, and it revealed and assured that there is hope in African-American--black lawyers today for years to come, and the torch has been passed from the old to the new.

GORDON: Well, I would tell you, having had the opportunity to know and call Johnnie Cochran a friend, he'd be proud of that, and we're proud of you, and congratulations.

Mr. SIMMONS: Thank you so much, Ed.

GORDON: And more good news for the Simmons family: Errick graduates tomorrow.

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