Prominent at the top of a long list of Mock Trial 2002 firsts, the Massachusetts Bar Institute recently announced the competition's state finals will be held in the Great Hall located in historic Faneuil Hall. The championship trial will take place on March 26 at 10 a.m. The Hon. Roderick Ireland will preside as the finals judge.
Faneuil Hall, named after Boston merchant Peter Faneuil, was constructed in 1742 as an open market and meeting space for the town government. The large meeting room on the second floor, the Great Hall, became Boston's official Town Hall. Here, in public session, Bostonians debated issues and elected town officials. It was in this structure that the first rumblings of the American Revolution were felt.
MBA Public Service Director Elizabeth A. O'Neil led the effort to secure the finals location.
"Faneuil Hall has so much historical significance, I can't think of a better site to have the mock trial finals. I am very excited for the MBA and the two teams that will be able to compete in the historic Great Hall," O'Neil said
But before there can be a state champion, there needs to be 16 regional winners who'll compete for the right to travel to the Great Hall.
Competition has been fierce in this year's program. At the end of three weeks of preliminary trials, only two of 16 regions have produced clear-cut regional champions. Of the remaining 14 regions, six regions will have to hold tiebreaker trials to determine the regional winner. Eight more regions will battle for the title of regional champ right up to the commencement of the mid-March Sweet Sixteen series.
"This is the first time, Mock Trial has seen so many tiebreakers," said Chantal Souffrant, MBA mock trial coordinator. "The fact that there are so many tiebreakers really shows how the teams have improved over the years."
The ever-increasing quality of student performances is readily evident, particularly on the North Shore, where one region's trials have resulted in a five-way tie - another first for the Mock Trial Program, which is now in its 17th year.
As a Mock Trial Committee member and volunteer judge, MBA member Arthur Carakatsane is a firsthand witness of teams in action.
"The consistent participation among the students, increasingly experienced coaching and terrific dedication of the teams produce wonderful trials year after year," Carakatsane said. "I'm continually amazed at how these students do and how well they completely grasp the materials. I find that even with the complexity of issues presented in this year's case, the students continue to exhibit outstanding talent."
To keep pace with the increasing competency of teams, provide guidance to new judges, and promote consistency in judging, the MBA's Mock Trial Committee held its first orientation program for judges prior to the preliminary trials. Attended by more than 40 volunteers, the training provided an overview of the case materials and mock trial rules.
This year's case involves a severe injury to a star batter during a championship softball game. The plaintiff batter claims the pitcher's coach directed the pitcher to injure the batter. The pitcher has stated that if subpoenaed to testify, the pitcher will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify. The claims include negligence, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
William B. McDiarmid, chairman of the Mock Trial Committee, participated as a trainer in this year's judges orientation. "The positive response to the orientation session far exceeded our expectations," said McDiarmid. "While the mock trials are fun and educational for everyone, including the attorney judges, it was gratifying to see how many members of the bar were willing to devote their time to a voluntary training session so they could better perform for the students."
The Mock Trial Committee and the law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer, sponsors of the Mock Trial Program for the fourth year in a row, invite all members of the MBA to attend the March 26 State Finals at Faneuil Hall. For more information or to reserve a seat, call Mock Trial Central at (617) 338-0570 or via e-mail at [e-mail mocktrial]. Additional information about the Mock Trial Program is available online at www.MassBar.org/Mock.