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mossipgirl
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sat Mar 25, 2023 12:21 am
Message reputation : 80% (5 votes)
Bear with us for a second. One of the early threads on this forum is a discussion of the 2019 CRC guidance memo, in the aftermath of the Yale sanctions (linked below). Across 27 posts, the consensus is mostly some version of “AMTA isn’t doing enough to clarify the rules.” But hidden in the bandwagon is a comment from user Pacificus. A user who is, throughout the thread, decidedly anti-Bays and anti-Yale. We’ll try to paraphrase: there is a gray area in between what is clearly sanctionable and what is clearly allowed, and AMTA wants you to stay out of that gray area. If you don’t play on that middle ground, say Pacificus and AMTA, you’ll never need to worry.

Folks, welcome to the guilty portrayal rule: AMTA’s biggest fuck-up of a gray area.

When AMTA proposed their extremely controversial (and bad) switch to the “necessary inference” standard for 2022-23, the internet erupted. And although the board capitulated and voted to keep AMTA on the relatively looser leash of reasonable inferences, absent from most of the backlash was rule 6.11(2): no more guilty portrayal witnesses. It passed in June, and it’s been in effect since the start of the fall season.

We understand why AMTA proposed and passed this rule—or at least, we understand why it’s consistent with AMTA’s logic. They want their competitors to learn how to examine witnesses. At its core, they argue, this activity is educational in nature, and there is no educational value in calling a witness just to accuse them of doing the crime. Besides, they say that doing so breaks the round and leaves the crosser with no remedy. As a disclaimer, we don’t completely agree with AMTA’s rationale (we think this is a fun college activity and guilty portrayal witnesses don’t consistently score well anyways). But we’re not AMTA and we’re not the CIC. If AMTA wants to change a rule in the activity, clearly explain the change to competitors, and enforce it consistently, that’s their right. But let’s be very clear: that is not what’s happening here.

It started with Mandy Navarra. The plane’s mechanic, and popular D call, for what? Say it with us: Engine failure theory. Throughout the fall, we saw teams tinkering with the line between what was fair game and what elevated Navarra to a level of incompetent that crossed the line into guilty portrayal. But come December case changes, there was no CIC opinion clarifying the nuance of the rule. Just AMTA revising Navarra with different D and P side affidavits for the first time in 7 years, presumably to avoid the guilty portrayal issue in the first place. Remember how Navarra was the owner at the beginning of the season? And remember how there’s an extensive explanation of vicarious liability in the Felder v. KC Air? Making Cherry Rockets the owner of Budget Fix was an obvious fix to make Danny-did-it theory allowable. Did the committee forget guilty portrayals weren’t allowed when they wrote this case?

Navarra’s affidavit suggested fragments theory. It suggested “engine should have been replaced” theory. They weren’t outside the box or incredibly creative: they were explicitly and unavoidably written into the case. (Pre-regionals changes, we think it’s clear these theories were much more explicitly written into the affidavit than Danny-did-it). And because Navarra was the primary technician, these theories all had an innate, intuitive question: why the fuck didn’t the mechanic fix it? Teams weren’t worried about reading between the lines or angry, borderline-hostile directs; the gray area had suddenly become an explicit theory AMTA wrote into the case.

And now, Skye v. Gold. A case with a defense constrained cop who conducted a shockingly bad investigation and a rule 6.11 clarification that implying the cop did an “improper or incompetent” job is sanctionable. Bernstein and co. wrote a witness so incompetent, so unbelievably biased, that even asking a direct question with the straight response in the affidavit—no tone, no acrobatics, just verbatim facts—practically constitutes guilty portrayal. Sure, there’s a way to run Singh without issues—you could call Singh to the stand and run a direct around the idea that their investigation was great and the facts were just against Gold. But on its face, their investigation is so flawed, so obviously incompetent, that there is an intuitive avenue for guilty portrayal. But that avenue isn’t clear cut or easily distinguishable from a non-guilty-portrayal Singh. The line between a sanctionable Singh and a legal Singh just isn’t clear.

And AMTA isn’t clarifying it. The rule itself is vague, the special instruction in Skye isn’t very detailed, and at this point just calling Singh might place a team in AMTA’s gray area. AMTA, what the heck? This is our first year with this rule in place, and both cases have raised this question. If you don’t want us to run guilty portrayals, why do you keep writing witnesses that imply them?

The answer might be as sinister as the existence of the problem itself. We think it’s pretty clear there is disagreement—substantial disagreement—within AMTA not only about what the rules should be, but about what the rules actually are. The case committees have spent the last year writing witnesses with a clear guilty portrayal subtext, and the CIC and the Rules committee banned them almost a year ago. As for the issue in Skye v. Gold, the committees aren’t even on their own same page. Bernstein is the author of the case and the chair of the committee that proposed the rule outlawing guilty portrayals. He’s the last person you’d expect to write a witness like this, and here we are, with less than three weeks before the CIC is going to be ruling on these issues. Less than three weeks to figure out what the hell we’re allowed to do.

AMTA has decided that NCT is the time to run a “pilot program” of in-tournament review. During the competition, three members of the CIC will reign supreme over each division. We won’t know the procedure for all this until a week before the tournament, and it’s not clear exactly what will happen if the CIC finds there’s an invention, because there is no public documentation about how they evaluate remedies. Just to recap, here: AMTA can’t seem to agree on its own rules, we have virtually no idea what they are, but if you screw up at NCT in three weeks, if you get confused about what AMTA thinks is allowed, your opponent will run to the CIC mid round, and three people will decide your fate. Excited to go to Memphis?

AMTA: if you’re going to punish people, if you’re going to threaten sanctions, if you’re going to ban students for stuff like this, you owe it to the activity to stop writing witnesses that invite it. The 48 best teams are going to compete with a new case for the first time, with the threat of mid-tournament punishment hanging over their heads, and we’re flying blind.

xoxo,
mossipgirl

Pacificus thread: https://impeachments.forumotion.com/t50-crc-guidance-memo


Last edited by mossipgirl on Sat Mar 25, 2023 10:33 am; edited 1 time in total

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aymesq
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sat Mar 25, 2023 10:29 am
I’m a bit confused by this statement: “When AMTA proposed their extremely controversial (and bad) switch to the “necessary inference” standard for 2022-23, the internet erupted. And although the board capitulated and voted to keep AMTA on the relatively looser leash of reasonable inferences…”

When I read the CRC memo and the comment to 7.21 (4) (c) (ii) it appears to me that AMTA has defined a reasonable inference AS a necessary inference. Don’t they say that a reasonable inference is one that a reasonable competitor WOULD make as opposed to COULD make? (And not that it matters, but that’s not how a reasonable inference is generally described in the “real world”).
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mossipgirl
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sat Mar 25, 2023 12:38 pm
Hi aymesq,

First, to your point: we were referring to the board agenda and minutes from this summer. In AMTA's own words, "We expect a necessary inference standard to reduce the number and severity of inventions, while giving students a more understandable and predictable rule" (link). But you're absolutely right—there's confusion about what these standards mean and probably even inconsistencies in how AMTA defines them. Certainly, this is worthy of a discussion, but it's not the discussion we're really concerned about here. Guilty portrayals exist almost independently of the reasonableness of an inference, especially for characters like Navarra and Gold.
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Okay
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sat Mar 25, 2023 4:52 pm
I agree with this wholeheartedly. After being out of Mock trial for some time now, but getting the opportunity to come back and help out my old team, I feel like i have seen this AMTA hypocrisy for years now. Not to bring back old dirt, but the Yale sanction was too much. I think the only thing holding teams back from inventing is the fear that they will have their hard-earned prestigious law school offer taken away. I exaggerate obviously, it's not the only thing, but if someone in AMTA doesn't like your team just like they didn't like the student-ran hard-working Yale team, they will be waiting to shut you down.
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Souper_Soups
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sun Mar 26, 2023 12:26 am
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I have a lot of personal disagreements with the CIC. I feel alot of their recent sanctions have constrained the rules on inventions far too much. For example the recent ruling and sanction that a witness saying they follow the "industry standards" when the specific verbiage doesn't exist in the affidavit is an egregious invention of fact. In my opinion this goes way too far and is only going to lead to more litigation in the tab room when a witness doesn't state the affidavit word for word rather than simply addressing the issue through impeachment.

But in regards to the guilty portrayal rule, I actually support it, in large part because it does draw a clear boundary for a part of this activity that has always been unclear (blame your own witness theories.) I disagree that the line is blurry as to what is and isn't allowed under this rule. I think alot of teams look at this rule in the sole context of witness portrayals, but even though witness portrayal is a factor AMTA considers the easiest way to know if you're in violation is to just look at your Defense argument as a whole.

Is it a part of your argument to the jury, that one of your 3 witnesses is responsible for the crime/wrong?

So in other words, in your defense closing, are you blaming engine failure for the crash? Or are you specifically blaming Mandy Navarra by name for the crash? If you're calling Mandy, the former is allowed, the latter is not.

And if you do want to go further and blame Mandy Navarra by name to the jury, you still can. All you have to do is not call him.

So when I read Felder for the first time my personal strategy for engine failure theory was: If we're calling Mandy, we should blame Danny Idleson instead since he isn't one of our 3 witnesses. And if we're not calling Mandy, we can blame him instead.

After reading this case I feel once again that the rule is super clear cut. Want to blame Brooklyn Singh's investigation? Great! Don't call him and spend the rest of your case talking about what a bad job he did. But if you do want to call Brooklyn, then the argument that his bad policing is responsible is precluded, so go with a different theory. (Though again there is nothing wrong with blaming another police officer, or the police as a whole, as long as you're not specifically blaming one of your three witnesses in your closing.)

As a member of a program with no connections to the board, I honestly feel this rule presents a significantly clearer line than any of the rest of the CIC's recent rulings. And just because AMTA writes witnesses that you theoretically think would be great to run a blame your own witness theory on in years past doesn't make this rule any blurrier or hard to understand.

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RealKellyDoos
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Sun Mar 26, 2023 2:41 pm
Initially, when AMTA announced their decisions, I found myself agreeing with SouperSoups. While personally I didn't take issue with teams electing to run hostile witnesses, I was grateful there was a hardline rule laid out. The prior two seasons, where AMTA had written hostile-bait witnesses in Danny Francisco (what is it with Danny witnesses and being alternate suspects?) and Maddox Vaughn, had been really complex for my team to navigate. We thought we could run good, viable defense theories using these witnesses in hostile characterizations, and we were really, really unclear on whether it would be allowed for us to do so. The three or four years of absolutely murky ruling on the hostile portrayals post-2019 were insanely difficult for teams to navigate--especially when you factor in things like AMTA broadcasting Florida State's brilliant hostile Austin Lewis at ORCS in 2021, which appeared to the community as an acceptance of the portrayal. Even though I didn't mind hostile witnesses, I was just happy to have a clear rule, even if it wasn't the one I'd have liked.

But now that we have that rule, I don't think the policy provides the clarity SouperSoups claims it does--mostly for the reasons mossipgirl very intelligently lays out. I think it's easy, in the small bubble of mock-nerdom that exists on impeachments to assume that everyone in the AMTA community is operating with the same amount of information we are. I have no trouble agreeing that like, I understand the guilty portrayal rule just fine. It makes things a lot clearer for my coached program with AMTA connections who is very much tuned into the AMTA community and was paying attention to the board minutes this summer. But the vast majority of teams in AMTA (honestly, including some of the ones who will be in attendance at NCT this spring) aren't in that position. If you aren't very in-the-loop on board policies, then a rule like "you can blame people but only if you don't call them" doesn't appear very intuitive--especially when a team like that might make the VERY reasonable assumption that like, the casewriting committee wouldn't create witnesses who bait hostile portrayal if that violated the rules. Teams who approach this activity as novices without considering AMTA's rules and regulations (which really isn't an unreasonable or absurd thing to do), are going to assume that this is a way this activity can be played, and the way AMTA writes cases now they aren't wrong to do so.

Now of course, it's easy to say that these teams should simply have been more cautious, or known better--"ignorance of the law is no excuse" and all that. And I'd agree with that if it weren't for the reality of how sanctions operate. In my mind, the biggest issue with AMTA's penalization of invention of fact has always always always been that sanctions are incredibly severe. Without getting into specifics of historic sanctions (something that's better left buried in my opinion), it's no secret that being sanctioned in AMTA has had substantial, meaningful impacts on the lives of competitors outside of mock trial. That's what at risk to competitors who get sanctioned, and because the stakes are legitimately that high, I can't say I am comfortable with the possibility that a competitor could incur those penalties because they made the (apparently foolish) decision to assume that because the case writers put a possible portrayal in the case, it must be within the rules. Of course, I would also say I'm against any member of the mock community incurring those penalties ever, regardless of circumstance or intention, but that's an empathetic argument for another thread. For now I'll leave it at this: I don't think any team should be punished for playing the case the way it's written. MossipGirl is right. AMTA needs to play by their own rules...or change them.
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justchilling
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Mon Apr 03, 2023 2:57 pm
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As an all-national attorney. You guys take this stuff way too seriously. Breathe... adapt to the cases you are given... sorry AMTA made it hard. everything will be ok I promise
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bozodestoryer1234
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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

Mon Apr 03, 2023 5:21 pm
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well guess what bozo, I am an outstanding witness at the 2016 Fantastic Flyer Invitational, sure they forgot to put my name on the tab summary, but this stuff is serious and i refuse to breath even when someone tells me to. Good day.

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AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules Empty Re: AMTA, Play by Your Own Rules

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