Boston all-girls high school wins state
by Bill Archambeault
The Winsor School, an all-girls high school in Boston, won the
Massachusetts Bar Association's 2010 Mock Trial State Championship,
advancing to the national competition in Philadelphia May 6-9.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the competition, the Winsor
School team bested Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public
School of South Hadley by a 2-1 vote after a two-hour mock trial on
The competition was held before hundreds of supporters and
spectators in the Great Hall in Boston's Faneuil Hall, with three
Massachusetts judges presiding over the trial and selecting the
"The voting was close, about as close as it can get," said
Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Peter W. Agnes Jr., the
Massachusetts District Court Judge Barbara Savitt Pearson, a
scoring judge, praised both teams, which advanced past the more
than 100 other schools that competed this year.
"If in my courtroom every day I had the pleasure of having
lawyers as good as you, my job would be a lot easier," she said.
"This is one of my favorite activities of the year. Your
performances really were stellar. This really was a very difficult
This year's case involved a parent who had filed a civil suit
after losing thousands of dollars investing in an aggressive hedge
fund to pay for her child's college. The plaintiff argued that she
had been manipulated by her financial advisor into choosing an
extremely risky hedge fund, while the financial advisor and her
brokerage firm claimed the parent had demanded high returns quickly
despite being warned of the risk.
In Mock Trial competition, schools must be prepared to try both
sides. At the state championship, Winsor represented the plaintiff
and Pioneer Valley represented the defendant. In addition to
announcing which school had performed the best, the judges also
said that they would have issued a mixed verdict for the
Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Judge John D. Casey, a
scoring judge, agreed that the teams' performances were
particularly impressive given the complexity of the case.
"We were all so impressed with the detail and how you handled
yourselves," he said. "This takes a lot of courage, to stand up in
front of your peers and families and strangers, to think on your
feet, to think of objections. The reason you're the best of the
best is your preparation."
Casey also praised the students for deftly answering questions
that Agnes posed to them during their closing arguments, then
picking up where they had left off.
"Both sides did an excellent job handling it," Casey said.
Before announcing the winner, Agnes noted how pleased he was by
the professional decorum maintained by both teams, even under
aggressive cross examinations and objections. He said he was
dismayed when President Barack Obama was interrupted by Rep. Joseph
Wilson shout of "You lie!" during Obama's speech on health care to
Congress in September.
"So it's wonderful to see the professionalism you exhibited here
today," Agnes said. He also picked up on Pearson's comments about
the complexity of the background case material the students had to
"I don't think I've ever seen a Mock Trial where student lawyers
knew their material better than they did in this case," he said.
"The student lawyers in this competition did an excellent job."
Students who fluidly handled case facts relating to investments
and returns during the trial admitted afterward that this year's
material had not been the easiest to master.
Pioneer Valley senior Joseph Kendrick said that while this
year's case didn't involve as much human interest as others during
his four years on the team, this case was the most interesting
"There was a lot of extra research done [this year because of
the material], more than we usually do," he said.
Pioneer Valley junior Kimaya Diggs said, "This case was harder
to understand than I expected, but the intensity level [of the
competition] was what I expected."
While Pioneer Valley has reached the state finals before, this
was Winsor's first appearance.
"Every year, it's your hope to get this far," said Amy Bridge, a
Winsor senior and co-captain.
Bridge said she was excited to get a completely new case to
learn for the national competition.
"At the beginning of every year, there's so much information you
have to know," she said. "It's a whole year of practice, and
everyone gets more comfortable with it."
Winsor co-captain Sanjana Sharma, also a senior, pointed out
that this year's team included eight freshmen. Though many of them
didn't perform during the competition, "I don't think it can be
overstated how much they help," she said. "They help us see [the
competition] with new eyes."
Maggie Yellen, also a Winsor co-captain and senior, said she too
was looking forward to getting the new case. While team members are
expected to start preparing by reviewing the rules of evidence, she
said that excitement gets the best of them and they skip ahead to
read the case's affidavits.
"I'm thrilled [about advancing to nationals]," Yellen said. "I
love being able to spend more time with this team."
Winsor attorney-coach Joshua McGuire, a Mock Trial Committee
member and a former student champion, said it's "a terrific
accomplishment" to be the first championship won by a private
"They were just a fantastic, dedicated group," he said. "I'm
particularly pleased for the seniors, who wanted to break through
Having so many underclassmen on this year's team "is a very good
sign for the future of the program," he said.
Before presenting a $2,500 check from the Massachusetts Bar
Foundation to the Winsor School to help cover their travel costs
for the national competition, MBF President Joseph P.J. Vrabel Jr.
told both teams that his college students had nothing on them.
"I can't tell you how proud I am, and I hope all of you go to
law school," he said.
MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus told the students that the MBA
hopes they had found the competition a rewarding opportunity,
"something that has brought about a greater appreciation of
yourselves, your teammates, the law, court proceedings and the
American judicial system," she said. "I'm confident that this
experience will serve you well as you plan your futures in college
and as adult citizens in our great democracy."
The Mock Trial Program is administered by the MBA, and made
possible by the international law firm of Brown Rudnick through its
Center for the Public Interest in Boston, which has contributed
$25,000 to the program every year since 1998.
"We are indebted to the generosity of Brown Rudnick, who have
committed unwavering, substantial financial support over the
years to the MBA's Mock Trial Program," Yarashus said.
Jennifer Rosinski and Chelsea Hildreth contributed to this