Educational Services Division
Mock Trial Competition Immerses Students in Law Related Learning
“Mock Trial prepares you for the honesty of real life. Attorney scorers and coaches are honest to Mock Trial students and sometimes it is hard to hear, but it makes you a stronger person. Mock Trial teaches you to further understand the law. It is a test of your knowledge and critical thinking skills and makes you truly recognize the power of words.
I liked Mock Trial because it gave me an opportunity to meet people who were interested in the same things as me. It was a positive court experience that didn’t make going to court feel bad. It also made judges and attorneys feel human and approachable. I hope to become an attorney and I am glad I was able to meet people in our legal community for the future.”
--Celeste Gutierrez, former Watsonville High School Mock Trial student
Law Related Education and Prevention Programs, part of the Student Support Services Department at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE), provides students throughout the county with opportunities to engage in law and justice education. Mock Trial is a trial simulation where students form defense and prosecuting teams and compete against each other before a judge in a courtroom. Participants develop critical thinking skills, confidence in public speaking, and knowledge of legal practices and procedures. After receiving the case in early fall, Mock Trial students dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort preparing for the February competition.
Mock Trial is coordinated by Law Related Education Programs in collaboration with the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, Superior Court of California Santa Cruz, and the Santa Cruz Trial Lawyers Association. This February marked the 21st Annual Santa Cruz County Mock Trial.
This year’s case, People v. Bratton, focused on the trial of Jordan Bratton. Bratton was charged with murder in the first degree of entertainment critic Preston Palmer. The pretrial issue involved freedom from unreasonable search and seizures as provided under the Fourth Amendment.
Nearly 8,000 students throughout the state of California participate in local Mock Trial competitions. Through performance-based education, these students further their knowledge of our judicial system, history, content and conduct of our legal system, analytical abilities, communication skills, and team cooperation. Mock Trial teams receive guidance in courtroom procedures and trial preparation from volunteer attorney coaches.
Locally, over 20 attorneys volunteer as competition scorers and are given specific scoring criteria. The students are scored on team sportsmanship, presentation skills, analytic ability, and team cooperation. Approximately 10 local judges and commissioners volunteer to preside over the competition, making decisions regarding the running of the trial, rulings on pretrial arguments, competition violations, and announcing the verdict.
The Santa Cruz Mock Trial competition proceeds over the course of three days. This year’s competition took place at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse on February 6th, 13th, and 15th. Throughout the first two days, each team participated in two scored rounds. On the third day, the top four highest scored teams competed in the semi-finals. The top two teams then advanced to the finals. The award ceremony immediately follows the final round and recognizes students’ outstanding work.
Mock Trial teams participating in 2010 were: Aptos High, Harbor High, Santa Cruz High, Scotts Valley High, Soquel High, St. Francis High, and Watsonville High. Scotts Valley, Soquel, Santa Cruz, and Aptos advanced to the semi-final round. Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley competed in the finals.
The 2010 Santa Cruz Mock Trial winner is the Santa Cruz High team. They will compete at the state level against the winning teams from participating counties. The 2010 state competition takes place March 19-21st in Santa Clara County. Forty-four states, U.S. territories, and South Korea will participate in the two-day national competition. The 2010 national competition will be held in Philadelphia on May 6-9th.
The Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) manages the California Mock Trial Competition for all 36 participating counties. CRF introduced the program to other counties throughout the state in 1980 after establishing a large following in Los Angeles County. Each year, CRF creates and produces a new set of Mock Trial materials. The materials include a hypothetical criminal case, summaries of case law, witness statements, official exhibits, simplified rules of evidence, lesson plans on the central issues in the case, and competition rules and guidelines.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education congratulates all Mock Trial participants, including the students, teachers, and volunteer attorney coaches, judges, legal associations and courts whose collaboration makes this competition possible.
Artist renderings courtesy of courtroom artist Jovanna Vera-Bobadilla, Watsonville High School.
Find out more about Law Related Education Programs at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education by contacting Martine Watkins at (831) 466-5705.