I am a “clean” judge in that I do not have coaching ties to any school, and once upon a time when I was in high school, my school unfortunately did not have a debate program (and it still doesn’t). Thus, I have no interest in which school wins each round of debate other than the best arguments prevailing.

I have judged high school forensics for over a decade, and I am in my second year judging debate. However, even though my competitive debate experience is limited, my real-life experience is significant. I actually get to do this sort of thing for a living. I worked in the Wisconsin Senate for over seven years; worked on a successful US Senate campaign; and now am a director for public policy operations at a state agency.

Speaking rates of all speeds are perfectly acceptable to me, but I need to be able to understand you. If you choose to motor-mouth your speeches, I can keep up as long as you enunciating. However, if you can deliver a compelling case smoothly and at a somewhat conversational tone, I will likely reward you with additional speaker points.

The philosophical and theoretical can be convincing, but a debater has a higher bar to cross with me if he/she chooses to go that route. LD debates offer limited time, so if a debater can make a case using convincing, direct evidence, that likely will carry the day with me. That said, a couple of relevant questions in cross-examination with weak responses may put you in a hole for the round that I will likely recognize and penalize when determining the victor.

Both sides have an equal burden as far as I am concerned. A trivial example by the negative that contradicts the resolution is probably not enough to prove the resolution false. Similarly, if the affirmative offers a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of empirical evidence or specific examples that support the resolution, the negative certainly has an easier path to victory.

Winning the value/criteria debate is a nice bonus but not an automatic win. In fact, the opposing debater can choose to accept the other’s value and corresponding criteria and win if he/she is more persuasive in debating the opponent’s criteria. However, an LD debater accepting his/her opponent’s value and/or criteria is playing a game on away turf and has a higher bar to prove victorious.
And while the best defense can be a good offense, it does not mean rebuttals are unnecessary when your opponent refutes your contentions. I will award a win to a weaker case if the stronger case neglects to rebut refutations.

Some final, general notes: If a debater gets hung-up during a speech or when trying to ask a question during cross-examination, moving on better serves the debater than stumbling around trying to resuscitate a botched point. And if you are going to use the more advanced vocabulary from the literature, I urge the debaters to please practice pronunciation of the word with their coaches. Otherwise, the speaker points I award to the debater will likely reflect the mistakes.