Mock Trial is an interscholastic competition club sponsored by the New York State Bar Association. Club meetings begin in late November, with at least two prior to Winter Break. Regular weekly meetings (often during lunch) begin in January after students return from break.
Each year, the Mock Trial team argues a case provided by the New York State Bar Association. This case is released to the public around Thanksgiving. It can be a civil or criminal case as is often based on recent events. For example, a criminal case was used regarding Wall Street practices in the wake of the 2007 Financial Crisis.
Each case includes a Case Summary that provides an overview, or story, of the trial. There are always six (6) witness that offer affidavits (3 for the Prosecution/Plaintiff, 3 for the Defense). Similarly, there's usually 4-6 pieces of evidence involved as well.
Trials occur on Wednesdays either at the Oneida County Courthouse or Federal District Courthouse in Utica.
The Mock Trial Team is generally broken up into two "mini teams" dependent on the case:
Roles of Team Members
In any trial, there is a maximum of six (6) students involved. However, every member of the team, even if they aren't "competing" on a particular day, is vital to the overall performance of the team. Trial strategy, the way in which a case in going to be argued, is typically developed by all team members.
Attorneys, of which there are three on each side, are responsible for the general execution of the trial strategy. This involves creating and framing questions, negotiating with fellow attorneys and judges, coordinating evidence and construction of opening and closing statements.
Each attorney is required to handle two (2) witnesses during a trial: one during Direct Examination (this involves a witness that is on the same team as the attorney and the witness essentially testifies to their own views) and one during Cross-Examination (this involves a witness from the opposing team whereby the attorney is essentially trying to "fit" the witness into their trial strategy).
An opening and closing statement is required in every trial. This is done by two separate attorneys, though often the statements are created in conjunction with the entire team. An opening statement is 5 minutes long and lays out the facts of the case for the judge, highlighting what is hoped to be achieved in the course of the trial. This is generally memorized and recited in court.
The closing statement is also 5 minutes long and is primarily used as the final attempt to convince the judge of a team's strategy. Much of this is done in outline format, as the closing should incorporate facts that were raised during the trial itself.
There are always three (3) witnesses in every trial for each side of the case. The job of a witness is to not only memorize their affidavit (sworn statement to the Court recollecting events) but to physically be that person during the trial. Witnesses should work with attorneys to develop trial strategy and emphasize certain aspects of the trial strategy and certain times. Whereas attorneys are required to do plenty of "thinking on their feet," witnesses are asked more so to "perform" by incorporating body language, tone and emotion to convey their story.