Mock Trial Program
Friday, November 18,
Connecting Our Community
Judges' Visits And Trial By Jury Event
This week, mock trial students had the opportunity to meet with various judges from both state and federal courts. While some students traveled to courthouses, other teams welcomed the judges to their schools. Students were able to practice opening and closing statements in front of the visiting judge before asking questions. Team UP Academy Boston & Vertex Pharmaceuticals met with Judge Judith G. Dein on Tuesday. The students listened closely to all of Judge Dein's feedback and used it to improve their arguments.
The hope is that after this week’s session, students will feel more comfortable speaking in front of a judge during the final events. We also hope that by getting to know a state or a federal judge, students gain a deeper understanding about their role and how judges are a crucial part of our justice system. Additionally, being able to meet and connect with multiple members of the justice system, such as judges and legal mentors, helps students see themselves in those roles for their future careers.
Monday evening, Discovering Justice held a Trial By Jury speaker event. The event featured Honorable William G. Young, Harvard Law Professor Dehlia Umunna, Assistant United States Attorney Dustin Chao, and Former Public Defender Miriam Conrad. In attendance was team Stoklosa Middle School & Freitas & Freitas, LLP from Lowell. The Stoklosa team heard from the panelists how jury trials can both positively and negatively affect the delivery of ‘justice’. Cris and Debbie Freitas explained how the “panel was demonstrative of the tension that really exists when you practice law… and to see that tension up front is something [the students] would not otherwise be exposed to.” This event followed last week’s discussion of jury selection, providing a basis of knowledge to the Stoklosa students in attendance.
For the next two weeks, students will be spending a significant amount of time editing and practicing their arguments in preparation for the final events. With the final events a few weeks away, the knowledge and skills the students have gained from the program are more apparent than ever.
Friday, November 11,
“You're not just students in a classroom learning about law. You're actually hearing it from professionals, talking to you as if you were lawyers”
- Maia Bickford Loy, Seventh Grade Mock Trial Student at the Dr. Arthur F. Sullivan Middle School
Hear From Our Community
Student Attorneys From Sullivan Middle School: Rachel, Maia, and Michelle
Final Mock Trial Event preparation is well underway! This week, students practiced direct and cross-examination with legal mentors in order to prepare for questioning witnesses at the final event. The improvement of students’ public speaking skills and confidence with each weekly session is evident to their teachers and legal mentors.
While visiting the Dr. Arthur F. Sullivan Middle School in Worcester last week, Discovering Justice staff members sat down with three students to discuss their experience with the program. Seventh graders Rachel, Maia, and Michelle are all participating in The Mock Trial Program for the second time. After a positive experience last year, they were thrilled to partake in the program once more.
Maia recounts the sense of community she felt after last year’s program, remarking it didn’t matter to the students which argument won, but that they “all did [it] together.” When asked what they are looking forward to, Michelle hopes to answer the question, “what is justice?” With similar hopes in mind, all three students look forward to learning more about the role of an attorney and the justice system.
Friday, November 4,
“I hope that they can see themselves and where they could take their education by seeing the people who come in here.”
- Shannon Conley, Principal of Arthur F. Sullivan Middle School in Worcester, MA
Hear From Our Community
Preparation for the Mock Trial culminating courthouse event is now underway! After weeks of collaborative learning, students split into plaintiff and defendant teams to begin crafting their arguments. Students worked with legal mentors to assign their roles and will continue preparing for the December Mock Trials.
Discovering Justice staff members were lucky enough to be able to visit the Dr. Arthur F. Sullivan Middle School in Worcester this week. The school’s principal, Shannon Conley, sat down with us to discuss how the Mock Trial Program has evolved in Sullivan Middle and what she has observed from students participating in the program.
Conley has noticed how engaged the students are each week of the program, attributing it to the way the program taps “into the passions of the kids.” She sees the program as a way for students to “put their learning into practice” while developing relationships with other community members.
Like many members of the Mock Trial community, Conley looks forward to the final event. While we count down the days, we hope that students enjoy the learning journey that they embark upon in order to get to the trial–building arguments, developing relationships with their mentors, and gaining the skills necessary to present their cases in front of a real judge and jury.
Friday, October 28,
“Students get excited to see someone they don’t know. They want to learn more about us.”
- Chelsea Choi, Connor & Morneau, LLP
Hear From Our Community
During this week’s Mock Trial session, students examined one of the most important parts of this year’s search and seizure case: the witnesses. At the final Mock Trial events, many of our student attorneys will be questioning these witnesses in order to prove their argument to a jury.
This week, we had the privilege of speaking with Legal Mentor Chelsea Choi of Connor & Morneau, LLP. Choi began working with Discovering Justice as a law student in 2016. Between then and now, she had volunteered to take on a number of leadership roles including the role of a judge for our Mock Appeal Program. This year, however, Choi is back as a legal mentor for STEM Middle School in Springfield.
Choi remarked how impressed she has been by the enthusiasm of this year’s group of students. It’s clear to her how ambitious the students are. “Even just to raise their hand and shout out an idea, or answer a question, shows how brave they are,” stated Choi.
Similar to the rest of the Mock Trial community, Choi is eagerly looking forward to watching the students’ hard work pay off at the final Mock Trial events in December.
Friday, October 21,
“They [students] have wonderful things to say. They get that confidence, and do their best performance at the trial. It’s beautiful to see. I continue to get great pride and joy from seeing that.”
- Daniel Less, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
Hear From Our Community
The Mock Trial Program has concluded its third week and students are developing more skills and knowledge such as the reasoning for a jury trial and why it’s important for both the plaintiff and defendant to be represented. In order to prepare, students will soon be developing their own arguments about student privacy in school with guidance and support from their Legal Mentors.
This semester, we are working with over 150 returning and first time legal mentors volunteers. To provide insight into what being a Legal Mentor entails, we spoke with Daniel Less of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
This semester marks Dan's sixth semester as a Discovering Justice volunteer. Working with the Florida Ruffin Ridley School, Dan speaks to the value of the Mock Trial Program for both students and legal mentors, noting, “we have a lot of mentors who come back better than they were before”.
Dan is looking forward to watching students flourish in and out of the classroom and learning from them in a similar way as they are learning from him.
Tuesday, October 12 2022
Welcoming A Record Number of Teams
to The Mock Trial Program
Discovering Justice kicked off its 21st season of its Mock Trial Program this week with a record 30 teams of middle schoolers set to tackle the complex intricacies of the Fourth Amendment.
This record number of teams from 13 cities and towns are headlined by Discovering Justice’s expanding partnership with Springfield Public Schools and first out-of-state team from Rhode Island. We are welcoming teams from Boston, Brookline, Framingham, Waltham, Brockton, Springfield, Lowell, Worcester, South Hadley, Pittsfield, Douglas, Medford, and Providence, Rhode Island!
This year’s case is based on the 1985 Supreme Court Case, New Jersey v. TLO, which set the precedent for students’ Fourth Amendment Rights (search and seizure) in public schools. The case involves a school principal finding more than they expected when searching a suspected student bully’s cell phone.
It is exciting to work with new school systems and legal mentors and expand our impact to more than 400 middle school students this fall. With more than 120 volunteer legal mentors and 30 teacher coordinators, we have a talented team to help students learn about the workings of the judicial process and prepare their cases for trial in December.
The Discovering Justice Team wishes everyone luck in these first few weeks and is eager to see everyone's hard work pay off.