High school teams to take their cases to Butler courthouse
Presenting a case in court is challenging, takes countless hours of preparation and research — and it's also a lot of fun, say high school mock trial students.
“You need to be able to think on your feet pretty fast,” said Moniteau High School senior Zac Marino, whose two older brothers competed in mock trials before him.
“You have to be confident with what you're saying,” said Lindsey Cozad, a senior at Moniteau. “You can't be shy.”
Mock trial teams from Moniteau High School, Freeport Area High School, Butler Area High School and Seneca Valley Senior and Intermediate High Schools will compete against each other at the Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division's Butler County mock trial competition on Feb. 11 and 12 in the Butler County Courthouse.
The county competition is hosted by the Butler County Bar Association, and is the first step in a statewide mock trial competition. District, regional and state champion competitions will follow.
During the competition, each 12-member student team argues a case in a courtroom before a judge. Local lawyers and community leaders serve on the jury and score students on things like poise, articulation, realism, control and effectiveness.
The students play the roles of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. The student lawyers must prepare for a case the way a real lawyer would, writing an opening statement, synthesizing arguments, and finding strengths and weaknesses to the case, said Moniteau coach Sean Morrow. The students also are expected to learn courtroom etiquette and procedures, like those regarding evidence, direct and cross examinations and objections.
“The kids generally know the courtroom procedures and know it better than some lawyers because they're very careful about it,” Morrow said.
Playing a plaintiff, defendant or witness requires students to thoroughly learn the character they'll be playing.
“You need to have emotion on command, especially if you're playing a witness,” said Moniteau senior Kiersten Fencil.
Each team has a teacher coach and a lawyer adviser to help students prepare the case, although the coaches from Butler County schools said their students do most of the work, devoting hours of time after school to preparations.
“Sometimes I sit back and smile, watching their wheels turn, watching their strategies,” said Dale Wagner, coach for the Seneca Valley Senior High team. “The reason I don't like to give too much input is I want it to be their case, not my case.”
The team from Butler Area High School has won the county competition for the last five years, said Butler mock trial coach John Lesjack, a social studies teacher at Butler Intermediate High School. The winner from the county competition will move on to the district level and face teams from Armstrong, Beaver and Lawrence counties.
Morrow said he's had two students become lawyers. Wagner said he's also had a few students become lawyers. One former student, Lesjack, started the mock trial program at Butler Area High School.
This year's hypothetical case is a civil trial to determine if a parent or high school track coach is liable for the death of a student-athlete who was taking performance-enhancing drugs. The high school coaches said their students were able to connect and relate to the case.
“It's a topic that kids are familiar with and can wrap their heads around,” Lesjack said. “We have a lot of kids that are athletes and that makes a lot of sense to them.”
Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- VA Butler group offers support for military victims of sex assaults
- Butler County new home sales surge in 2014
- Butler commissioner candidates’ stances on senior centers vary
- Despite proposed closings, Butler Area school costs could grow
- ‘ChildFirst’ helps victims, Butler police
- New Mars superintendent kept tabs on district’s successes
- Butler Township eyes business growth spurt
- Failed oil venture ties John Wilkes Booth to Butler County
- Hines Ward to open Table 86 restaurant in Seven Fields
- Early-morning traffic accident in Butler County kills Petrolia man
- Fired Butler official O’Malley claims political, age discrimination