Mock Trial Reaches County Finals

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Mock Trial Reaches County Finals

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This year, the VHS Mock Trial team had a milestone season. After being undefeated in five trials, the team made it to county finals for the first time in over 25 years. However, this was not without hard work.

The concept of mock trial is relatively foreign to many people. Everyone knows it is about lawyers and arguing, but there is so much more to it than that. Around October, all participating New Jersey high schools receive the same “mock” case, which includes witness statements, a jury charge, and a statement of facts. Then, the teams have until mid-January to prepare their case for the county tournament. Each team is comprised of a plaintiff side and a defense side.  Each of these “sides” includes two students who argue as lawyers and three students who testify as witnesses. At VHS, the defense team includes captain/lawyer, Julia Burke, lawyer, Christian Dionisio, and witnesses, Chloe Matthewson, Abby Bermeo, and Kayla Catalano. The plaintiff team is comprised of captain/lawyer Maeve McGinley, lawyer Gigi Petti, and witnesses, Ryan McKeown, Michael Sluck and Evan Silvia. At the competition, one of Verona’s “sides” argues against another school’s side. For instance, the plaintiff team from VHS went against Millburn High School’s defense team.

This was an interesting year for VHS Mock Trial as it only had three returning members on the competition team: seniors Maeve McGinley, Julia Burke, and Ryan McKeown. The rest of the team had never seen a competition before the first night in which they competed. Nevertheless, the team really came together and improved their case after every practice. They participated in scrimmages, practiced at a law office, and even did a trial in the courtroom at Verona Town Hall, in addition to night practices and weekend run-throughs.

Julia Burke, a senior and lawyer on the team, said, “Mock Trial was an amazing experience to learn more about the world of legal studies. It was great to see how our hard work paid off and to be able to compete in the county finals.”

Mock Trial may sound simple, but it requires thinking on one’s feet more than any other school activity. The competition is really about preparation combined with improvisation. It is also all about teamwork.

Michael Sluck, a junior and a witness on the team said, “Mock Trial was a great experience, not only because of all the interesting things we learned, but the great friends I made on the team!”

Though VHS lost in a nail-biting trial against Montclair High School in the county final, it was still a milestone year. VHS hasn’t even made it to the semi-final round of the county tournament in almost five years, while Montclair has won counties countless times. VHS had a team of newcomers who came together to make history.

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