As the president of Pitman High School’s Mock Trial club, senior Mobin Nicokar is looking forward to his day in court.
During the Stanislaus County Mock Trial event that kicks off today at the Stanislaus County Courthouse in Modesto, Nicokar and nearly 20 other members on Pitman High’s team will get a firsthand experience in courtroom procedures and put their critical thinking skills to the test.
“My favorite part in participating in Mock Trial is the rush of adrenaline I get when I’m forced to think on my feet. Objections are fascinating in their complexity, so when an opposing team stands up to make an objection, I’m thrilled to be given the chance to persuade the judge to think the way I do,” said Nicokar. “That is after all what Mock Trial is really about — being able to logically persuade someone to think like you.”
Sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, the annual High School Mock Trial competition provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate acquired listening, speaking, reading and reasoning skills.
Working in teams, students study a hypothetical case, conduct legal research and receive guidance from volunteer attorneys. Students gain a working knowledge of the judicial system as well as an understanding of the link between the United States Constitution and the substance of the law. Superior court judges conduct each trial with the teams scored by attorneys practicing in Stanislaus County.
This year’s fictitious case, People v. Awbrey, is a human trafficking and false imprisonment case, featuring a pretrial argument on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
For this year’s county Mock Trial event, Nicokar said that he will assume the role as an attorney to direct examine two witnesses and cross examine two witnesses, meaning that he will help two witnesses from his team tell their story while fighting off any objections that may occur, as well as attempting to impeach the opposing team’s witnesses.
“To do this I thoroughly read through the witness statements in order to understand the facts of the case,” said Nicokar. “I also further developed my objection skills by teaching what I know to the new wave of Mock Trialers. As I’ve learned from school, the best way to show your understanding of something is to teach that topic to others.”
Turlock High senior Emily Kline said that she joined her school’s Mock Trial team last year as a way to get practice since she has always been interested in becoming a lawyer. To prepare for this year’s competition, she said that her team has practiced twice a week, and she also works with her witnesses and fellow attorneys outside of practice to perfect both their questions and performance.
“My favorite part of Mock Trial is working with a team to construct a theme and a plan of attack to succeed in court,” said Kline. “Mock Trial provides career experience as well as encourages students to think strategically. Mock Trial also coincides with some Common Core standards and is a fantastic way to gain a new way to construct arguments.”
Also on Turlock High’s Mock Trial team is senior Lucas Bartell who said he has been involved in the club his entire high school career. While he said that the biggest challenge is making relevant objections during the trial and finding solid evidence for cross examination, he enjoys the teamwork and fun that comes with being a part of Mock Trial.
“I became interested in Mock Trial because I thought it would be an excellent way to better my public speaking abilities and experience what it’s like to be an attorney,” said Bartell. “My favorite part about being in Mock Trial is being able to use critical thinking skills and feel like an actual attorney.”
As the club’s advisor at Turlock High, Jill Ogden said that she believes it is important for the school to offer Mock Trial to students as it allows students who are interested in a legal career or an acting career to get an idea of how the legal process works, as well as provides a “really fun experience” for both students and coaches.
“Students learn a variety of skills through the Mock Trial program,” said Ogden. “They expand their knowledge of the law and how criminal trials are conducted. Students learn critical thinking and speaking skills.”
Students will compete in the Stanislaus County Mock Trial event today, Tuesday and Feb. 9 at the Stanislaus County Courthouse, 800 11th Street in Modesto. The championship round between the top two teams will begin promptly at 4 p.m. Feb. 15 and the awards ceremony will immediately follow at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the Petersen Event Center, 720 12th Street in Modesto.
In addition to Turlock High and Pitman High, eight other Stanislaus County high schools signed up to participate: Beyer, Davis, Downey, Enochs, Gregori, Hughson, Johansen and Modesto. The winning team will advance to the state competition scheduled for March 24 to March 26 in Riverside.