Members of the schools Mock Trial Club have been busy throughout the year competing in various tournaments in an attempt to gain a general understanding of court cases and to learn about the various roles within the judicial system.
Their competition season begins in September, when the team receives a case packet with information about a fictional court case. This year, the case is called People v. Concha and centers around the idea of protection against unlawful search and seizure, and the extent to which the fourth amendment of the Constitution should be upheld.
From the time the team receives the case all the way to the end of February, the team spends meetings preparing to argue this case in front of actual judges and attorneys.
“At meetings, the [student] attorneys work with their respective witnesses in scripting the direct examinations,” junior Ashwin Vaidyanathan said. “As a group, we also dissect the case, create timelines to help us visualize the events, understand the goals and biases of each witness and practice objections.”
Throughout the year, the club participates in four official competitions, and various scrimmages against schools such as Menlo, Carlmont and Mountain View. The competitions all take place in the San Jose Superior Court.
“We use real court rooms, have real judges presiding, and real attorneys scoring,” Ashwin said. “In our county, we have about 20 teams who compete on these days.”
The club is split up into two teams: defense and prosecution. This year the defense teams faced Lynbrook and Lincoln’s prosecution teams, while the prosecution teams faced the defense teams from Saratoga and Prospect High School.
“Though we are all working together, these two sides pretty much function as separate teams, since they attend separate competitions,” junior Anneliese Gallagher said. “Each side has had two competitions and both of us have won one and lost one.”
The defense team won against Lincoln High School, and the prosecution won against Saratoga High School. However, contrary to popular belief, the judges “verdict” during the trial is not what determines which team won and which team lost.
“During every trial you are scored by a ‘jury’ of three to four real-life attorneys [and judges],” Anneliese said. “They score each person on a scale of 1-5, and then at the end, they add up all the scores for each team, and the team with the most points wins.”
It is also possible to advance to more competitive competitions, both at the state and national level,” Anneliese said. “[Winning] three out of four competitions in the first round [guarantees a team] a spot in the quarter finals. Since we only won two out of four, [our advancement] will be determined by our cumulative number of points.”
This year, the team is less competitive than in previous years. They only meet once a week on Tuesdays, as opposed to often meeting twice a week like last year. The club overall is not as stressful, and the focus is more on having fun.
“Most of the team, including the coaches, realized that Mock Trial was more of a [secondary] commitment, and as a result there wasn’t much stress,” Ashwin said. “[This year] we all just wanted to have fun, hang out with our friends and learn a little bit more about the judicial world.”
In the future, the team hopes to expand the number of members and continue to advance their understanding of the judicial process.
“I would really encourage more people to sign up next year,” Ashwin said. “There is a position for everybody.”