Mock Trial Goes To Court
On January 13 and 14, 2020, Nutley High School’s Mock Trial team went head-to-head in a competition with several other schools at Newark’s Municipal Court. They placed fifth place in the Essex County competition and outscored schools from Caldwell, Cedar Grove, and East Orange. The team worked tirelessly in and out of school to prepare for their case and put hours upon hours of effort into making sure they would be ready for the competition.
Mock Trial isn’t quite as well known as other clubs and it’s not often what comes to mind when you think of after school curriculars. However, it is well loved by those who do participate in it. The team is a close knit group of kids who constantly work with one another to better their skills, though that’s not all that Mock Trial does for them. “It's given me a lot of new friends. At the very least, new acquaintances I can talk to. It's given me a better ability to publicly speak because the judges will rank you at how good you are,” says Kat Guimary, a sophomore at NHS and a witness in the case. The club helps the students to gain skills that will be useful in their everyday lives, whether they decide to go into law or not.
The different roles give different skill sets and have varying degrees of importance regarding the case. "Students usually excel in the attorney role if they are skilled public speakers, willing to closely read documents, and ask questions. These are skills emphasized and developed in most courses at NHS. Student jurors must be excellent listeners and often observe our attorneys and witnesses during practice sessions and meetings in order to provide feedback,” said Christopher Bradley, the teacher advisor for the Mock Trial team.
Even though it’s a club, Mock Trial isn’t just some after school extracurricular activity for its participating members. The students put hours upon hours into perfecting their cases and their dialogues. They have meetings and rehearsals that start up in December and run through January to make sure that they have enough time to properly prepare for their case come January 13th and 14th. The practice hours range anywhere from a 20-minute meeting during lunch to over two hours after school, “Weekly meetings typically progress into daily lunch meetings in January leading up to the date of the county competition. We utilize that time to review and assess the development of the case. Leading up to the competition meetings become mandatory which sometimes becomes problematic for students who are involved in many activities and clubs,” Mr. Bradley explained. The club works extremely hard to prepare and often may even meet out of school to practice with one another.
This year, the team worked particularly hard to place fifth in the Essex County competition and were only a few points away from qualifying for semi-finals. The two-day competition had the prosecutors go first, and defense go on the second day. The competition took place in Newark Municipal Court, and the team competed in three rounds this year. It was the longest amount of time that the Nutley team had been a part of the competition. “It was cool. I didn't think we would get that far, because we haven't before. I felt really proud of our team because it's an accumulation of points that gets you there,” said Kat.
Students in Mock Trial will have the experiences and memories that they have created carry on with them for years to come after they graduate. They learn assets that will be valuable to them in future endeavors, even ones not associated with law. Being in the competitions and part of the team allows for them to create a tight bond with one another while enhancing their skills. The results from being in Mock Trial will be with them for the rest of their lives.