Court back in session for Mock Trial 2016

A group of West students are expected to make several court appearances this upcoming month. Not for crimes or misdemeanors, but instead to practice professionalism, public speaking, and the processes of law as they begin a new season with the Mock Trial team. Entering its third season, Mock Trial is preparing arguments and defenses in order to replicate the workings of the legal system, hoping to live up to the team’s past success under new leadership.

“Mock Trial is a program run by the Wisconsin State Bar Association,” Mock Trial coach, Officer Dave Maas said. “The program encourages students to become familiar with the court system through civil and criminal case proceedings. Generally, students become involved as a witness or an attorney in which the cases are defended and prosecuted by students.”

Maas, as well as English teacher William Brydon, are working to fill the position left by previous coach, Andrew Schaller.

“I think what Mr. Schaller did by setting up the Mock Trial team here at West is something that Officer Maas and myself really want to carry forward,” Brydon said. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here; we are just trying to keep it going so we can continue the success of the program and live up to its already stellar reputation.”

The club was initially established as a part of Mr. Schaller’s class and was only offered to his students. As more students became interested in joining the group, junior Jackson Thiel and senior Sara Anderson saw an opportunity that would soon provide them an insight to the world of law and order. Despite their commonality, motive for joining Mock Trial varies from person to person, according to Anderson.

“A lot of students that are in Mock Trial don’t want to be lawyers and aren’t really interested in law, but they find it’s fun to do anyways,” she said. “However, I’ve always been interested in law and that is what I want to do when I grow up.”

By joining, students gain opportunities and connections that introduce them to the real world of crime and justice. For Thiel, he found these connections beneficial as he continues his goal of following in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer.

“It really gave me an insight into what practicing law is like,” he said. “Mock Trial gave me real life connections to people in the field of law while developing friendships as well.”

The connections provided through joining Mock Trial have also set the path for Anderson and her future in the field of law.

“Mock Trial hooks you up with real attorneys and lawyers in the field,” Anderson said. “That has really helped me realize that this is what I want to do.”

As students begin the season by receiving case materials containing affidavit statements, the hard work begins. According to Maas, the group’s functions are solely student-orientated with meetings about twice a week. He finds this to be an apt organizational template.

“Mock Trial is all generally student-based,” he said. “As coaches, we are there to facilitate but the students do all of the work. Even though the club is open for any student to join, the expectations are reasonably high in order to maintain a successful team.”

With high expectations in mind, Mass believes that replicating the structure of years past will help the team succeed. With the loss of such dynamic leaders as Katy Lahr and Claudia Koechell to graduation, the group has its work cut out for them as the season begins.

“The students that are going to be a part of Mock Trial and are going to be successful are basically expected to function as adults and do a lot of hard work themselves,” said Maas. “We are not going to be hand holding or enforce people to show up to meetings, but we require people to be committed and wanting to be there and do the work and perform to a high level. This is what happened last year and the team was amazingly successful because of that, so we want to continue on that path.”

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