Twelve Upper School students plus two alternates participated in the Mock Trial case in the Hartford Superior Court on Friday, February 7. Ten teams competed in the Hartford area and 10 teams in Stamford and only eight teams made it through. Our defense bested Conard High School by four points, and our plaintiff-side had a landslide win over Ellington High School. On Friday, February 28, the eight remaining teams will square off in Middletown Superior Court.
The case, which was released in September to the competing schools, involves the death of a high school student. Advisor Lynne Levine said this was a tort case, and each year the Civics First CT tries to make the case more relevant to the students. In this year's case, a parent is suing a school and its track coach because his/her son died of a steroid overdose. Additional background information is provided to give context, and Levine said there is plenty of evidence for both sides to use. The schools represent both sides of the case. “We have to know it all,” Levine said.
She shared that the KO students memorize their lines and arguments rather than read off their papers so that they present as compelling a case as possible. Each time they move forward in the competition the team becomes more refined and stronger as they inhabit the roles of the characters they are portraying. Carolyn Boardman ’22 was especially effective as the grieving mother, and Matthew Marottolo ’20 convincingly played the dead boy’s anguished best friend. “You had to see Matthew in the stand. He was saying, ‘I knew that going to an adult was the best thing. I told the coach that he was taking steroids. And he did nothing! He killed my best friend!’ They really get into the role and become that person,” Levine said. She recommends that novices in Mock Trial begin as witnesses to develop their skills and later move to become lawyers when they are more adept.
Decorum in the proceedings is carefully considered, and the attorneys must stand to address the judge. Even if the student-attorney loses the objection they respond, ‘Thank you, your honor.’ Losing or winning the objection doesn’t count, but how you defend it does. Students learn the legal terms such as duty of care, breach of duty, proximate cause, and a preponderance of the evidence.
Levine asserts that Mock Trial helps students think on their feet, think more logically to solve problems and support their thinking with evidence. One of her Mock Trial students attested that Mock Trial helped him comprehend his English books better and extract the key points from the text. “It’s an academic strength," Levine said of Mock Trial. "It’s a great experience even if they don’t continue in the field. It gives them a lot of confidence and poise,” she said.
Levine also advises the Middle School Mock Trial team with the support of three parent-coaches who are lawyers.