GALLIPOLIS — River Valley High School juniors and seniors banded together for their annual Mock Trial scrimmage session, Tuesday evening in the Gallipolis Municipal Court and Gallia Common Pleas Court, and were joined by Gallia criminal justice officials to review and advise students on court procedure before students head off to compete against fellow students from across the region.
The juniors are headed to Portsmouth and the seniors to Marietta.
“This year we’ve got 40 students who are involved with this on four different teams,” said RVHS English Teacher Aaron Walker. “We’ve got two junior teams and two senior teams. Since the beginning of November, students have been preparing for the competition they’ll have on Friday. Essentially, they’re given a mock court case and this one happens to be centered around the First Amendment. It is a former high school student who is suing his principal because he feels like his First Amendment rights were violated.”
Students have to review assertions made by the student and have read 10 U.S. Supreme Court cases as they are expected to make their arguments surrounding case law.
Walker said that the mock trial cases, while fictional, are often built around similarly real world scenarios.
“Often they have to have a thorough understanding of court precedent and figure out how that applies,” said Walker. “We have a plaintiff side and a defense side. There are two attorneys on each side. Two witnesses are called. We have bailiffs and timekeepers to follow a real court proceeding. The students on Friday will go up against another high school.”
“What I love so much about mock trial is that it prepares students academically and they not only have to know content about the cases,” said Walker,” but they have to develop clean thinking and argumentation. They also have to develop those softer skills like presentation and eye contact, characterization and interpretation. It’s a whole bevy of skills and requirements that students are developing and working on and have been over the last two months.”
River Valley High School holds the mock trial program in its AP literature and language classes as well as after school activities.
Walker thanked Gallipolis City Solicitor Brynn Noe as the school’s mock trial legal advisor. All of Gallia’s judges as well as Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren served to advise students during the evening’s scrimmage with students and teachers thanking them for their time.
“The biggest thing I take away from mock trial is us learning to craft our own arguments and being able to back that up,” said mock attorney and Senior Ryan Snyder. “I think that’s valuable no matter what field you’re in if you’re dealing with people. I would say the toughest part is forcing yourself to get through all the case law and documents.”
“I think one of the best things about mock trial is learning to think with a higher register and learning to think on your feet,” said mock attorney and Junior Kristen Clark. “One of the challenges is being able to step out of your comfort zone because of lot of these people aren’t used to public speaking.”
“The biggest challenge I had was finding the time to study. It was harder last year because I was an attorney but as a witness this year I didn’t have as much to do,” said mock witness and Senior Ethan Cline. “I think mock trial helps with your confidence which is big for me being in theater. This year, I just want to help more than last year… I was giving notes to witnesses who came down to help them do better.”
Mock Trial, as the annual school event has been called, is part of a statewide competition put on by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. According to competition materials, “Ohio Mock Trial provides an opportunity for high school students to participate in academic competition. The Ohio Mock Trail Competition is designed to foster a better understanding of the American democratic legal system and to encourage development of analytical and communication skills. In moving from the classroom to the courtroom, high school students add an important dimension to their learning experience in citizenship education.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.