By Bryan Hess –
Most kids hope they never have to see the inside of a courtroom, but there are ten Penn Manor students who couldn’t wait for the opportunity.
Mock Trial is a competition where a case is created for students to argue in a real courtroom in front of a real judge. The case materials are released in the beginning of October for the teams to start preparing. Teams compete between mid January until the end of February.
Each school has two teams: a plaintiff and a defense. Both teams are then matched up with their counterpart from another school to compete.
Jon Boxleitner, a teacher at Penn Manor, is the coach of the Mock Trial team. He believes the competition is a great academic exercise.
“The opportunity can’t be replicated in a classroom,” said Boxleitner of the competition.
This year the case was a civil case. The basics involved a woman refusing a medical procedure because of her religion, but the doctor performed the procedure anyway. Her child is now suing that doctor for damages for medical battery.
Each team is also assigned an attorney to guide and teach them more about the law. Penn Manor’s attorney adviser was David Romano from the public defender’s office. This is his second year helping out the Penn Manor team.
“I enjoy coaching and giving young people the opportunity to learn the law,” said Romano.
Tyler Keck, a senior, said the Mock Trial competition made him more aware of how the legal system works.
“The way a courtroom and a trial is portrayed on TV and in movies is unrealistic,” said Keck.
Despite this, Keck said it was an interesting experience. However, not all students think so positively of the competition.
Ben Baer, who is also a senior, was disappointed in the lack of support the Mock Trial team gets.
“It diminished my efforts,” Baer said.
The plaintiff team for Penn Manor competed January 25th against McCaskey. The defense competed against Solanco on February 15th.
McCaskey has had one of the better Mock Trial programs in recent years, and this year was no exception. In what judge Margaret Miller called one of the better trials she has been a part of, Penn Manor’s plaintiff was defeated by McCaskey’s defense.
Keck recognized that McCaskey was more comfortable with things such as objections and that was a weakness of his team.
Romano, who is familiar with McCaskey’s attorney adviser, stated that the team goes to Harvard University to attend Mock Trial workshops to prepare for the competition. Penn Manor, on the other hand, doesn’t take the competition as seriously.
“I’m lucky to get all my kids to show up to one practice a week,” said Boxleitner.
Boxleitner went on to say that he doesn’t go into each year looking to win the championship and his main goal remains to give the team members a basic understanding of the legal system.
Penn Manor’s defense went on to beat Solanco’s plaintiff is a lopsided decision.
One witness for the team, Sophia WuShanley, enjoys the competition very much.
“I enjoy the elements of debate and logic,” said WuShanley.
WuShanley has competed in three Mock Trial competitions and really enjoys the process of figuring out the best way to present the case. She has participated as both an attorney and a witness in the past.
Despite being a law based competition, only two of the seven seniors plan to go into that field.
The Penn Manor team did not advance to the next round of the competition, but both Boxleitner and Romano are optimistic about the next couple of years, having three underclassmen returning with experience.
“I think that having three returning students is really going to benefit the trial team. They know how it feels to prepare a case, the effort it takes to practice and memorize, and they have great experience presenting the case to the jurors,” said Romano.