Mock trial team preparing for their day in court

Group goes to regional tourney Saturday
Scott De Laruelle

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Oregon High School mock trial attorney Carly Foor interviews witness Lindsey Jaeggi during the group’s practice session after school Tuesday afternoon.

The thought of going before a real judge to argue a case isn’t what most high schoolers have in mind as a good time. But the Oregon High School students on Brian Towns’ mock trial team relish the opportunity to show their stuff.

Students will have a chance to do just that during the annual competitions, which begin with regional tournaments across the state on Saturday, Feb. 8. Semi-final and final competitions are set for March 9-10.

Started in 1983, the Wisconsin High School Mock Trial Program uses facts and case materials developed by Wisconsin attorneys. Students analyze and prepare a case, serve as witnesses, argue their assigned roles and receive input and feedback from attorneys and judges.

Towns took over last year from long-time coach Brian Root, who still plays a role in students’ learning through his high school law class. Last year, the seven-member team placed third at the regional competition in Madison, and this year’s team is looking to improve on that solid showing.

“We’ve been preparing by way of regular practices during the week, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said. “We’ve also had four scrimmages with other high schools at the UW-Madison Law School.”

Being a part of the mock trial team takes a “significant” commitment of time and effort, Towns said. Team members, who serve in either lawyer or witness roles (or occasionally a combination of the two), develop their own understanding of the case, legal theories, themes, opening and closing statements, as well as questions and answers for direct and cross examinations.  

All the while, they work on building an understanding of evidentiary rules, what evidence is admissible and when to make objections. There is also, of course, the challenge of working with others.

“This is definitely a team endeavor,” he said. “There is a lot for everyone to put together; and the putting-it-all-together part, of course, is the challenge.”

Students excited

Kim Gehrmann – the only freshman on the team – got involved in mock trial because she enjoys debate and the law. In competition, she’s a plaintiff lawyer and does both direct and cross examinations as well as presenting the opening statement. She said the preparation has been going well, with a lot of hard work involved.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the competition,” Gehrmann said. “It will be fun and exciting to go out and see how we measure up against other schools.”

Senior Maya Irvin-Vitela joined the class after a Law and American Society class piqued her interest.

“This season has been amazing,” she said. “Though there has been a lot of long nights, a few tears here and there and more rewriting than I’d care to admit, Mock Trial is definitely a family. It has really taught me the importance of not only being surrounded by people who think like you do, but also being surrounded by people who don’t.”

Irvin-Vitela said she definitely plans on going into a law-related career.  

“I’m not sure if law school is on my horizon or not, but I can’t imagine a life without learning about the law,” she said.

Senior Carly Foor, in her second year on the team, said she has always been interested in criminal justice and law, so when she heard about the team, she immediately joined up. She will attend UW-Platteville next year and plans to major in criminal justice.

“Mock trial teaches us about basic courtroom advocacy and we gain a basic knowledge of courtroom and evidence rules as well as bettering our writing and public speaking skills,” she said. “It’s been a big time commitment but it’s worth it. I love my team and I love spending time with them.”

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