The High School Mock Trial Program Introduces Students to the American Legal System

BY BARRY WARNER

DSCN5838New York’s State’s Mock Trial Tournament for senior high school students is an exciting law-related education program. It introduces students to the American legal system and provides challenging opportunities for personal growth and achievement. Supervising the competitions are the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Citizenship Education and the Rockland County Bar Association.

Students learn to conduct direct and cross examinations, how to present opening and closing statements, how to think on their feet and learn the dynamics of the courtroom. They become more poised, self-confident and courteous advocates for their clients, as they analyze legal issues and apply the law to the facts of the case.

Nyack High School teacher-coach Steven Nardi stated, “The mock trial program is a great experience for students who are interested in becoming lawyers. They develop confidence in public speaking under pressure in front of an audience in a courtroom.”

The New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament is a two-round elimination contest, where a team competes once as a plaintiff prosecutor and once as a defendant. Students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses and craft their arguments based on the evidence and witness statements. Teams are evaluated on their ability to make logical, cohesive and persuasive presentations by lawyers or trial judges. Adding to the authenticity of the competition, teams compete in actual courtrooms.

The legal case is ‘The People of The State of New York v. Penn Hydragas, Inc. and Mitchell Tomley, CEO’. Penn Hydragas and Tomley are accused of polluting the drinking water supply of a small village in upstate New York as a result of the defendant’s ‘fracking’ operation that is located near the village. ‘Fracking’ or hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock deep within the earth.

Ramapo High School teacher-coach Nathaniel Demosthene said, “The participation of the students in the mock trial program helps to familiarize themselves with the legal system. They benefit from the feedback of professional, as well as the development of their speaking skills.”

The next mock trial event will take place between Nyack High School and Ramapo High School on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4pm at the Village of West Haverstraw, 130 Samsondale Avenue, West Haverstraw with Hon. Kevin Russo, Presiding. The county winners will move on to regional competitions and if successful, compete in the semi-finals during the spring.

For further information call Leslie Ashby, Mock Trial Coordinator at 845-634-2149.

Caption for Photo #5838: The attorney for the ‘defense’ is questioning a witness during the mock trial competition between Nyack High School and Ramapo High School in Clarkstown Town Court before Hon. Judge Rolf M. Thorsen.