by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The Florida Bar High School Mock Trial Competition may be the first taste students get of the practice of law and a courtroom, and an army of volunteers is needed to make sure that taste is served correctly.
High school teams throughout the state will participate in competitions in their local circuits Feb. 12-13 and winners from those competitions advance to the state competition held in Orlando March 25-27. Teams from the Bolles School and Fletcher High School will compete for the Fourth Circuit crown and the opportunity to travel to Orlando.
The Bar’s Law Related Education Committee (LRE) works with the Florida Law Related Education Association (FLREA) to coordinate the competitions and is currently recruiting volunteers. The organizations estimate that about 200 volunteers are needed to staff the circuit and state mock trial contests.
“The mock trial competitions are huge events,” said Dana Bivins Brown, chair of the LRE. “We need help to judge and score the events and it’s a goal of the Law Related Education Committee to get Bar members excited about participating in educational events.”
The event is an academic competition in which a team of eight students simulate the roles of both attorneys and witnesses in a fictional trial situation. Each trial includes opening argument, direct and cross-examination of witnesses and closing argument. Teams also alternate in their roles of plaintiff and defense. Students compete against other teams in their judicial circuit, and the winner of that competition advances to the state finals. Students compete in four rounds of competition at the state finals to advance to the championship round. The winning team represents Florida in the national finals.
“The competition was intense, and these kids worked hard during three days of their spring break,” said Ken Tomchin, attorney and advisor for the Bolles School Mock Trial team during last year’s competitions. “I wish I could have gone through something like this when I was younger. It helps them learn how to argue by using their intelligence to think through a problem. It’s an excellent life learning experience.”
This year, LRE will be developing the case materials for the high school mock trial program. The case this year will address the issue of underage drinking and drunk driving. The case scenario is being adapted by a subcommittee of LRE members, led by Janeia Daniels, Florida State University College of Law. The subcommittee chose the case to give students a subject they could relate to on both personal and social levels.
A companion program to mock trial, is the moot court competition. It allows students the opportunity to experience the appellate process firsthand. Students write briefs based on an issue on appeal from the mock trial case. If selected for oral argument, teams of
students argue before district court of appeals judges and Supreme Court justices in the final rounds.
Coastal Mock Trial program enjoys success
Florida Coastal School of Law’s Mock Trial Team sent four teams to compete in three tournaments across the East Coast throughout the fall. In the Georgetown White Collar Crime Tournament, the team advanced to the semifinals and finished in fourth place out of 20 teams.
Coastal student Heath Vickers was awarded the “Exceptional Advocate” trophy with two perfect scores. Congratulations to team members Heath Vickers, Alison Goldberg, Molly Tandy, Daniel Martinez and coach U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt. The ABA Labor Law team of Chris Basler, Brooke Fuller, Tim Pribisco and Vanessa Albaum competed in the Miami Regional competition advancing to the finals. They placed second at that competition.
The ABA teams were coached by Coastal Law Alumni, Jo-Anne Yau and John Leombruno.