By Ashley MackinThree La Jolla Schools placed in the top 10 at the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) Mock Trials with The Bishop’s School winning first place, La Jolla Country Day School taking third, and La Jolla High School placing seventh.
The five rounds, which culminated in a championship round March 1, brought 28 schools from across San Diego to try the fictitious case of People v. Concha.
The case involved a high school senior facing one count of possession and sale of a controlled substance, and one count of second-degree murder of a fellow student that may be related to the drug sales. Each of the students was given a role to play in the trial — lawyers, witnesses, and those who give the opening and closing statements.
“The Mock Trial Competition affords students the invaluable experience of learning about the law, court procedures and the legal system that guides our country and we are proud to play a role in supporting this type of hands-on learning,” said Jon R. Williams, SDCBA president.
The Bishop’s School won four of the last six mock trials in which they participated, and the team of seniors said they learned some surprising skills along the way.
“I was a lawyer (in the mock trial) and I knew I might be interested in (studying) law, but I didn’t know what that would entail,” Anna Mischel said. “I didn’t understand the courtroom experience. This was a real opportunity to embed myself in what the experience really is. I mean, I was really in the courtroom as if I was going to be a defense attorney, so it gave me a good feel for what the field is actually like.”
Tina Huang said being in the courtroom and working on her role of prosecution lawyer sharpened her analytical skills. “I had to write questions in a very ‘what should I ask so I can get the answer we need?’ kind of way. It changed my thinking.”
Gabe Martinez said his public speaking skills (and knowledge of the human body) improved through his role as a medical expert. “You learn to speak effectively because you are trying to influence the thoughts of the judge and you want to look confident in how you speak,” he said. “You don’t want to look like a kid up there, you want to look like a professional because this is taken seriously.”
From the witness perspective, Alina Pham said she learned how to thoroughly think something out, but respond swiftly.
“You have to be quick on your feet in answering questions from cross-examinations and you have to be careful not to say anything that could bring down the case for your own side,” she said. “If they suddenly ask a new question, you have to think it through but be quick and give an answer (your side) would want.”
The Bishop’s School participates in the Mock Trials as part of its A.P. Government class, so the team changes every year. But they were up against Mock Trial teams that have repeatedly competed together.
“For all of us, being first timers, the competition came down to how often and how well we practiced, since we were all rookies,” Christopher Moorad said. “This might be our only experience with the law, so it’s cool to be able to do this even if we intend to go into another field.”
The Bishop’s team members included Dan Forssman, Joseph Oh, Elizabeth Case, Meghan Engh, Celeste Crawford, Anna Mischel, Alina Pham, Jenny Chen, Richard Del Rios, Alex Kilman, Tina Huang, Adi Chang, Gabe Martinez, Chris Moorad, Nicholas Gibbons and Ben Higgs.
Though La Jolla Country Day is one of those schools with teams that have worked together for years, this is the highest they’ve placed. Faculty Advisor Jonathan Shulman said two seniors have been in the group since they were freshmen — Sonya Jacobs and Alejandra Lamarque.
He added that because the mock trial is not affiliated with a class, the enormous amount of time the students commit, including lunch and weekend meetings (since they get the case details in September), was an impressive factor in their success.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with what the kids did,” Shulman said. “I’m almost sad our senior members are graduating.”