Mock Trial: A Club for Everyone, Not just the Future Lawyers

“Payal staying cool under cross… Officer Kopp stands strong!” “Gunther delivers his best cross of the season… Morgan Dexter was on the run” “Shayna playing the role to a T of Blair Allan to defend the hero Jamie Covington” “Sanchi refusing to be categorized… nobody puts Morgan Dexter in a box” “Angel playing the role of the defendant to an Oscar Winning level… a responsible protector of the house” “Aparna’s cross of [Officer] Kopp is unlike the ice cream store… confrontational and scary… no flavor of the day here.” “Abbey opening this trial like a door… a swag filled beginning” – BC Mock Trial Twitter Page

Contrary to what many people believe, Mock Trial is not just an “attorney in training program” but rather a place where students can develop many skills that will help them in a variety of endeavors. It is the perfect club for anyone who wants to learn how to problem solve, think on their feet, or participate in public speaking.  Mock Trial involves collaboration, emphasizes hard work, and develops lifelong skills that are useful for any profession.

So what is a mock trial? It is basically a simulation of a trial in court, with witnesses, lawyers, and judges. Students have the opportunity to play either a witness or lawyer and they work together to create a strong case for both prosecution and defense. It follows a similar structure to an actual trial, starting with opening statements and ending with closing statements. The team has a few scrimmages throughout the season in preparation for regionals. The point of scrimmages isn’t to win or lose but to develop arguments and learn from opponents. As Mr. Vogt says, “each scrimmage, our goal is to learn from our opponents and refine until regionals on Valentine’s weekend, where we’ll break some hearts.”

The Mock Trial team is led by Mr. Vogt, a social studies teacher at Wisconsin Hills Middle School who has coached the team for two years. He has personally shown a special interest in Mock Trial since he utilized the idea in a classroom setting a few years ago to teach history in an interesting way. This year’s captains include Payal Ahuja (’17) and Gunther Treis (’16), two upperclassmen who are dedicated members and veterans of the club.

This year the case is a civil case titled Sammi Smid vs Robin O’ Reilly, in which O’Reilly is a police officer accused of using excessive force. Including Smi dna O’Reilly themselves, there are three witnesses on each side of the case. The team is hard at work, comprised of lawyers and witnesses currently learning all they can about the case from every possible angle.

Another learning experience to be gained in Mock Trial is the fact that the team gets the assistance of professionals. Professional lawyers and judges evaluate participants at scrimmages and regional trials, oftentimes giving helpful advice after the rounds. BC’s team is lucky to consistently have the help of some professional attorneys as well; Cameron Weitzner has been a helpful attorney to the Central team. He also participated in Mock Trial during law school, and made it to the finals in his last semester of law school. One of his favorite things about Mock Trial is “developing your theory of the case and really seeing all of your hard work come together in the end.” He also stresses that Mock Trial helps students feel comfortable in front of other people and develop their logical reasoning and problem solving skills, helping them not only in the classroom, but in real life.

The team’s goals go beyond simply winning regionals. In Mr. Vogt’s opinion, the REAL goal is for every student to get something out of it, whether it is confidence, practice with public speaking, or just enjoying being part of a team with some wonderful members.