Mock Trial Heads to state tournament for second year in a row


Sophia Masters, Staff Writer

Upon the first mention, only a few people know precisely what Mock Trial is. To be completely transparent, I didn’t fully understand Mock Trial until I joined it myself. Some of the many questions I have gotten from people curious about the activity are, “Is it like a real trial?”, “Do you have actual judges?” and “What do you guys even do?” I’ve also gotten the “Oh, so if you ever get in legal trouble, you’ll be able to get out of it!” line too many times to count. Beyond the initial mystery of the activity, it is one of the best and most rewarding activities I have done in my life.

First, it’s crucial to establish some background about Mock Trial itself. We occasionally have real judges that score our competitions, and we often have county attorneys judging as well. Mock Trials are very similar to actual court trials, except for the fact that the cases are pre-established, and each team across the state of Minnesota has the same case. There are two sides to the case: plaintiff and defense. We have three witnesses on each side, and each witness is given an affidavit from the MN Bar Association that includes their individual facts and statements. There is a lead attorney and two council attorneys on each side. The attorneys deliver opening and closing statements, as well as the direct examination of our team’s witnesses and cross-examination of the opposing team’s witnesses. When we have a competition, each team is given a specific side to argue, and we switch sides throughout the season. After our competitions, we are given scores by the judges, and the team with the most points and the judge’s ballots won is declared the winner of the trial.

I joined Mock Trial in my junior year and definitely did not know what to expect. I was chosen as a witness and would be the defendant. I portrayed a veteran who had created a non-profit dog shelter and was accused of fraud. Our team worked extremely hard at the beginning of the season to prepare to do our best, but in all honesty, no one was truly prepared for our successes in the upcoming season. We were all happily surprised after our first win, and after we kept on winning trials, we realized that the possibilities for our team were truly endless. We ended our regular season undefeated and advanced to the Regional Championship, which we also managed to win against our greatest rivals. I still vividly remember our team running from our designated rooms screaming, “WE WON!” and the emotions that we felt after we realized that we had just absolutely defeated our odds and became the first Mock Trial team in our school’s history to advance to state. At our state competition, we won two out of our three trials and were declared the seventh-place team out of sixteen total teams, which was still a tremendous accomplishment. Last season’s success certainly jump-started our confidence and success for this year.
We began preparing for this year’s season much earlier than normal and began practices sometime in October. We had a clear goal now and knew entirely that we could achieve it as long as we put in sufficient effort. This year, our case involves medical malpractice for an ACL re-injury in a Division 1 swimmer. Our coach, Mr. Galligan, truly ensured we were confident, competent, and successful moving into this season. Immediately upon receiving our case materials, we worked extremely hard to prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities and for the in-person trials that we would now be able to have in the courtrooms. Thomas Moran, my co-captain, was the only person on our team with previous experience with courtroom trials, so our team was nervous going into the season. Our hard work paid off enormously, as at our first appearance at a pre-season tournament, we managed to win first place out of some of the best teams in the state. Blake Neubauer and Thomas Moran were awarded the best attorney and witness of the entire competition. Our drive and success definitely carried into our first actual trial, as we defeated the opposing team by an incredible 53 points, which is nearly unheard of. We discovered our love for in-person trials, but for the rest of the season, we were unfortunately limited to zoom trials because of courtroom and judge availability. Like last season, we completed the season undefeated, won the Regional Championships, and secured a ticket to the state competition. Still, this year included a few more DQ trips, and we will have more to come. We will compete at the US District Court in St. Paul this year.

Outside of all its technicalities, Mock Trial is an amazing and enriching activity. Wanting to be a lawyer or have a job in law in the future is not a requirement either, as many members of our team are hoping to go into unrelated fields such as business, music education, and trades. There are opportunities to learn many valuable skills in Mock trial, such as professionalism, poise, and public speaking skills. I have had many beneficial takeaways from the activity, such as quick thinking (as a witness, that is very important) and succeeding under pressure. The most important part about the activity is that Mock trial provides a fun and positive environment for friendship and support. Even though we compete against each other during practices, our top priority is teamwork and improvement, and we have tons of fun and team outings. Mr. Galligan set an excellent example for us with his outstanding leadership, and together we have all created a wonderful legacy that will continue for years to come.