Team Earns Runner-Up Title at National Voir Dire Competition

Photograph: Voir Dire Team and CoachesWashburn University School of Law claimed the title of runner-up in the finals of UMKC’s "Show Me Challenge" National Voir Dire tournament on Saturday, April 7 and 8, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri. Washburn Law was defending its 2016 national championship at this competition. The competition team consisted of Cleotha Daniels, JD Candidate ’19; Ryan Laudermilk, JD Candidate ’17; and Suzanne Lueker, JD Candidate ’17, who was the only returning member from the 2016 team.

Washburn Law’s team is coached by Danielle, '09, and Jay Hall, '07, both of whom also received Washburn undergraduate degrees.

Voir dire is the process of jury selection. The "Show Me Challenge" is the only competition in the nation to focus on this specific lawyering skill. Participating teams must conduct a voir dire in which they question potential jurors, go through the process of striking jurors from the panel, and present an opening statement to the remaining jury pool. This competition is unique because it is judged by attorneys and sitting judges, as well as by volunteer lay people who are selected for the jury panel.

On the first day of the Voir Dire competition, the students compete in three preliminary rounds. During these rounds, the students alternate responsibilities: one student performs the 30-minute jury voir dire; another student serves as the second chair, handling appearances, motions, and jury strikes; and the third student gives the opening statement to the jury.

In the preliminary rounds Washburn Law faced teams from Wyoming, Chicago-Kent, and Creighton. Washburn Law emerged from the prelims with a 2-1 record, which qualified the team for the semifinals against traditional trial advocacy power Stetson.

For the semi-final and final rounds, the team’s coaches place the students in their optimal positions. For the 2017 competition, the jury voir dire was performed by Lueker, with Laudermilk second-chairing, and Daniels delivering the opening statement.

Washburn Law defeated Stetson in a close semifinal to advance to the national final for the second consecutive year.

In a very tough final round, Federal District Court Judge Stephen Bough, who judged the round, commented that both teams were very evenly matched and choosing the winning team was a difficult decision. Washburn Law ultimately finished as the national runner up, with Saint Louis University School of Law winning the national title.