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Mock Trial Club: Prepares Students for Life After High School

Micahrae Osteria, Features Editor

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   UC High is making strides this year with its very own Mock Trial Club. After being established roughly six or seven years ago, the club took a short hiatus. Now, they’re back and better than ever, with 18 members and three coaches.

   “We have three attorney coaches. Samira Seidu is an Assistant District Attorney in San Diego and is the coach for the prosecution. Ed Arthur is a Defense Attorney and is coaching the defense team. Patrick Ojiel is also working as an Assistant District Attorney and has helped to coach the pretrial attorneys,” said Mock Trial Advisor Michelle Fournier.

   “Our coaches help us learn about the justice system and help edit our arguments and performances. They all have careers as attorneys so they are reliable sources for information. Not all coaches have a background in mock trial. However, some of the other coaches have not coached a mock trial team before. Either way, the coaches still offer valuable learning material,” said Senior Club Member Rachel Luu.

   The club was reestablished this year by Club President Junior Logan Quessenberry, after an experience he had with mock trial over the past summer.

   “Logan Quessenberry attended a mock trial camp this past summer and asked if we could form a club on campus. His older sister, Calliope, was on Mock Trial when she was at UC High,” said Fournier.

   “There are four days of competition, and each day either our prosecution team or our defense team faces the opposing team from a different school. For example, our first night of competition, our prosecution team [presented] their side of the case against the defense team from [Westview High]. There are over 30 schools taking part in the competition this year. Both teams are judged by attorneys who serve as scorers, and a real judge judges the merits of the arguments provided by each side. Teams earn points for staying within the time limit, knowing when and how to object to improper questioning and for their portrayal of the witnesses in the case,” said Fournier.

  Mock trial competitions are not something to be taken lightly, and this club isn’t messing around when it comes to competing and doing their absolute best. “We practice a lot. We do dress rehearsals in front of our coaches who will act as the judges. We’re trying to get better at presenting our arguments in front of larger groups of people in order to feel more comfortable and less nervous. We’re also doing rehearsals without notes so we really embed the case material to memory,” said Luu.

   Their practice schedule reflects their work ethic, and they’ve been working especially hard recently due to their upcoming competitions in February. “We have a Tuesday after school practice for one hour from 3-4 p.m. Then we also have lunch meetings on Thursdays. Now, recently, since comp is approaching, we’ve been having four-hour practices on Saturdays from 8 a.m to noon,” said Luu.

   “There are four days of competition for the San Diego area. February 15, 20, 22 and 24,” said Fournier.

   Mock Trial provides many skills to the students within the club. “It teaches students how to build and defend legal arguments, how to ask both direct examination and cross-examination questions, how to answer questions as a witness, and public speaking skills as well,” said Fournier.

   “The club gives us argumentation and inquisition skills for sure. Argumentation because we are composing arguments on why we believe our side of the case is stronger than the other teams. Inquisition because as a team we study and analyze the case. We have to be willing to question witnesses, evidence, and discrepancies,” said Luu.

   The members of the club are committed and focused. They work together rather than apart, and their strength is as a whole team, not alone as individuals. “Mock trial is a big time commitment so being dedicated is valued. Every team member plays a necessary role. No role is more important than another. So as a team, it can difficult to practice when not every team member is there. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s much prior knowledge you need to have before joining Mock Trial Club, because a lot of it is intuitive and you learn the more technical law aspects when you’re actually working on the case. Just being willing to commit, speak up, brainstorm ideas, and cooperate with teammates are the skills you need to have,” said Luu.

   Mock Trial doesn’t just stick with you in high school though. The club prepares you for life as well, especially if you plan to follow a profession in law. According to a website from Oregon that encourages political participation, “Mock trials have proven to be an effective learning tool for students of all grade levels. It helps them understand the law, practice critical thinking, and gain greater confidence with public speaking by assuming the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a fictional criminal or civil trial. Participants experience first-hand the difficulties that judges, lawyers, and juries face in determining which facts are relevant and what legal arguments are effective” (classroomlaw.org).

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Mock Trial Club: Prepares Students for Life After High School