Coronavirus cancels Evansville national mock trial championship

The 2020 National Mock Trial Championship scheduled to take place in Evansville this May has been canceled due to coronavirus crisis, leaving event organizers heartbroken and disappointed.

Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, said the decision to scrub this year’s competition was made March 12 at the recommendation of the Indiana team coordinating the mock trial event. The decision, he said, was based solely on public health and safety concerns. All the other elements needed for hosting the competition, such as financial support and volunteers, were in place.

The bar foundation had successfully pitched Evansville three years ago as a host site. Organizers were excited to welcome the championship that was expected to bring roughly 900 high school students, teachers, parents, attorneys and judges to Evansville May 6-9.

Since being named a host site in 2017, the bar foundation and members of the Indiana legal profession had been working to make sure everything needed was ready for the championship. Dunlap noted to have the event canceled after putting in all the effort and being within two months of seeing everything come to fruition was especially disappointing.

“It really does feel like somebody just pulled the rug out from under you,” he said, noting the idea that the national championship would be called off was not something anyone contemplated even a few weeks ago.

Perhaps underscoring the excitement around the state about having the national championship in Indiana was the success of the fundraising. Dunlap credited fundraising chair attorney Don Lundberg with collecting more than $250,000 in donations from across Indiana.

In an announcement posted to its website last week, the National High School Mock Trial Championship Board said it was canceling with a heavy heart.

“We have reached this decision after consultation with local boards of health and hand-in-hand with the Indiana Bar Foundation,” the statement said. “(T)hat organization and its volunteers have our profound gratitude.

“We were excited by what they had planned for May, and we know that it would have been a fantastic experience had events beyond their control not intervened.”

Dunlap said there is a possibility Evansville may be able to host the 2021 national competition. However, that would require Michigan to move its plans to host the national championship to 2022 and Arkansas bump to 2023. Those states are still determining what they can do.

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