Mock Trial semi-finals, finals in March

Issue March 2012 By Andrea S. Burke

High school students will compete in the semifinal and final elimination rounds of the 2012 Mock Trial Program at the end of March. This is the 27th year of the Massachusetts Bar Association Mock Trial competition.

This year's civil case explores the level of responsibility of schools and teachers have in preventing and addressing cyber-bullying among students.

"School bullying has received substantial attention in the media, and the recent anti-bullying legislation shows that people in Massachusetts want to use the law as one way to tackle this difficult problem," said attorney Joshua A. McGuire, chair of the MBA's Mock Trial Committee.

The semifinal elimination round will be held March 19 with simultaneous trials at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston and Worcester Superior Court. Each of the four teams in this round will have already competed in at least five trials.

"(Teams) have seen the case from both sides, and had the opportunity to refine their arguments and presentations," McGuire said. "The quality of the thinking and advocacy at this level is very high, and yet new challenges emerge in every round of the tournament."

Two finalists will advance to the state championship on March 23 in the Great Hall of Boston's Faneuil Hall. In 2011, the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School of South Hadley won the state championship and placed 31st in the national tournament.

The Mock Trial Program, first organized in 1985, places high school teams from 16 regions across the state in a simulated courtroom situation where they take on the roles of plaintiff attorneys, defense attorneys and witnesses. More than 100 high school students across the state participated in the 2012 Mock Trial Program, which began with preliminary trials at the end of January. Local attorneys serve as team coaches and judges in the preliminary rounds.

The Mock Trial Program is made possible by a grant from Brown Rudnick through its Center for the Public Interest in Boston, which has contributed $25,000 per year to the program since 1998.