I debated Public Forum all of my junior year of high school with my best friend and now Marine Corps soldier Bart. (His actual name is Taylor, but that's kind of boring, dontcha think? So I never called him that.) Now, Bart is a smart guy, but lazy, so naturally the partnership didn't end well, although somehow the friendship is still going strong. His biggest complaints about me as a partner were that I never really got out of debate mode, which I admit is true, and that I was too invested in it, which is also true. Now all I have to do is say the words “burden of proof” to warrant an angry scowl.
But I love the burden of proof defense, so much in fact that I use it in day-to-day conversations (which is why Bart hates it so much). I just wish that someone had taught me to use it properly earlier on. This may just be old new to a lot of you seasoned debaters, but maybe not.
Person 1: I think we should do -insert plan of action here-If you don't already want to strangle Person 1, I commend you. This is exactly where the burden of proof defense would come in.
Person 2: Can you prove it will be effective?
Person 1: Can you prove it won't?
Person 2: I don't have to, because it was you that made the claim, so it becomes your burden of proof.We've all had that one debate round where your opponent is making all sorts of ludicrous claims that the judge is just eating up and you don't have specific evidence to block out. It's a frustrating situation, especially when you just know your opponent doesn't have any evidence to support his claims. So that's when you pull out the good old burden of proof defense. If your opponent can't support his claim, then he's done your job for you and you don't have to ruffle your evidence folder at all.
Be careful, though. For judges, PF or LD debaters often get parents, teachers, and random community members who aren't necessarily familiar with debate jargon. Unless you know your judge is a former competitor or coach, clarify what you mean by “burden of proof” when pulling it out of your arsenal. Make sure there is absolutely no way the judge can misunderstand the exceptional point you're making. Trust me, I've had rounds where the judge didn't understand my -ahem- clearly superior arguments and I lost because of it.
How this post can directly relate to the most recent resolution?
Resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.On the Aff side, it's possible that people will try to run something regarding how the adult criminal justice system recognizes more individual rights than the juvenile system, but I doubt they'll have a lot to back that up. (I recently practice debated a good friend who made this claim, but because she couldn't give me an example of what rights juveniles are normally not given past a “due process” quote, the argument was shaky).*
On the Neg side, I think you might actually run into some psuedo-counter plans that you can use this defense against. Example: Violent juvenile offenders should be tried in a court separate from both adult and regular juvenile courts, so that the punishment can include the juvenile-favored rehabilitation while also being more severe than a general juvenile sentence (But, obviously, not nearly as severe a punishment as for adults). This is all well and good, and if you can support this with good, clear evidence, awesome. But if you're Aff and having to defend against this kind of a case, try asking them exactly how they know it will be effective. I don't think there is a lot of evidence to support a system like this, so with the burden of proof you'll catch them off guard.
As for defending your own cases, just make sure you can absolutely defend every claim you make. Have at least two pieces of evidence to support each, even if you don't use them in your actual case. Just having them is plenty to keep would-be “burden of proofers” at bay. Also, make sure that you can defend every claim to one of your friends, as a precaution for novice judges. Jargon is only impressive to your coaches and competitors, but you've got to keep in mind that you're not debating for them, you're debating for the judge.
Speaking of judges... I think I'll write a post about how to debate for each kind of judge you're likely to run into at one point or another. But I don't know when that will appear, because as I write this post I'm sitting in an airport on my way back to college for spring semester. Unfortunately, I won't have as much time on my hands anymore.
Bri Castellini is a college IPDA debater, blogger, and denizen of Twitter.
* Jim's note: The lack of a jury trial is probably the most significant rights-based distinction between the juvenile and adult system. Of course, whether a jury trial protects more individual rights is itself debatable.