Chaminade Julienne’s Mock Trial Club is making its return again this year as an opportunity for students to gain experience and insight into the legal system, while also improving their public speaking and research skills.
“Mock Trial is essentially a mock case and it always centers around the Bill of Rights,” said Tony Ricciuto '74, who teaches Honors World Cultures, AP European History and moderates the club. A case last year focused on freedom of speech, and this year’s case focuses on the Eighth Amendment's interpretation of cruel and unusual punishment (see video below).
“We begin practice around October and November to be prepared for the district competition in January,” Margot Duffy ‘15 said. The Mock Trial Club has a lot of help preparing for the district competition. Legal advisors Chris Herman and Chris Hollon of Faruki, Ireland & Cox PLL, and Attorney Kathryn Huffman, all pitch in their time to prepare the students.
At district competitions, CJ’s Mock Trial team, just like the other schools they compete against, separate into two sides -- Plaintiff and Defense. The students then argue from their particular point of view. “I was a witness last year and my favorite part was being able to make up your own role while sticking to your script,” Duffy said. At last year’s Ohio Mock Trial district competition, Duffy won an award for “Best Witness.”
The Ohio Mock Trial is a state program run by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. Each year there is a district competition, regional competition, and state competition -- held in March this year -- for clubs throughout Ohio.
Mock Trial at CJ was added as another opportunity for students a year ago when Ricciuto was approached about being moderator. Since then, the Eagles participated in the 2013 district competition and Ricciuto held a 2014 “Summer Seminar” in conjunction with Kathryn Huffman for interested students.
The July seminar consisted of three days filled with exposure to the legal system. “We tried to plan a few different activities for the students,” Ricciuto said. "We had a couple of attorneys come in and speak, the Honorable Mary Kate Huffman spoke, and we toured the Montgomery County jail.” The students who attended also had to prepare an opening statement for the last day.
“Mock Trial can help with acting or public speaking in general,” Caroline Chick ’15 said. Each student on the team must learn to present his or her side of the case. The attorneys present opening statements and other court literature, while the witness must learn their role and act it out. “I was a janitor last year, so I slumped in my seat and talked in a southern accent,” Duffy said. It takes a lot of work to prepare for these roles so the students practice about two to three times a week.
While Mock Trial Club has a strong presence on campus now, the club has not always been part of extracurricular offerings. Until recently, Mock Trial was on hiatus despite having a successful track record at CJ. The Eagles won district titles in 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2005, making an appearance in the state championship in 2000. Don Wiemert '57, who taught history at CJ for many years, originally supervised the Mock Trial Club until he retired.
This year's team is currently preparing to participate in the district competition, which is held Jan. 30, 2015. Students who would like to get invovled should email or contact Mr. Ricciuto in Room 134.