May 29, 2024
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Bruriah’s Mock Trial Team Reaches Semi-Finals

Believe it or not, there is an extracurricular program that accomplishes the impossible: It inspires students to pore over dense documents outside of school, voluntarily. Mock Trial is essentially an acting course for pre-pre-law students, whose script we write and present in a courtroom.

The New Jersey State Bar Foundation (NJSBF) sends out a fictional court case to the public and private schools who participate in this competition. The case includes stipulations, testimony from six witnesses and evidence documents, along with any legal information relevant to the case.

Bruriah participated in the Union County Mock Trial Competition, competed against a number of local Union County schools and had to win a number of rounds before advancing to the semifinals. All of the competitions took place at the local Union County courthouse.

Each mock trial team is divided into two groups. This year’s case was a criminal one, so the two sides were the defense and prosecution. There were two lawyers and three witnesses on each side, plus an understudy for every student. They have to know the facts of the case cold so they can tell their stories and hold their ground during cross examinations.

Lawyers, on the other hand, require an entirely different skill set. They must be deft writers who can think on their feet and sway their audience. Lawyers have the responsibility of establishing case theory, which includes finding an angle that supports their side, writing opening and closing statements, creating questions for their witnesses based on the given testimony, and perhaps most important, searching for holes in the other side’s arguments. The defense was responsible to find an alibi for their defendant, while the prosecution was obligated to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Through trial preparation, both lawyers and witnesses have the task of going through many pages of laws, evidence and testimony, memorizing facts and phone numbers with a sharp eye for details, anticipate every possibility and cover all the bases.

Two judges score the teams’ presentations. The scores are added and whichever team performed best wins the case. Factors in the scoring include knowledge of the case, use of the facts to support your case theory, court manner and more categories that are based more on the team’s overall abilities than the case presented in the workbook.

The method to success in mock trial is crafting a one-sided story around the case, complete with built-in rebuttals to use when opposing counsel tries to trip you up. The rewarding process of mock trial teaches us so much—the value of teamwork, an appreciation for our country’s justice system, critical thinking, effective public speaking and work ethic, to name a few.

The mock-trial team was guided by the talented, patient and supportive Mock Trial attorney coach Brenda Strashun and Mock Trial teacher coach Debby Oratz, who guided the team to the semifinals. Bruriah’s Mock Trial team was led by captains Rivka Cohen and Adina Brooks, who were the movers and shakers of the team. Four understudies, Shifra Isaacs, Raizel Fine, Aviva Shulman and Deedee Weinstein, all pitched in whenever something was needed. The six witnesses, Maya Ratner, Talia Postelnek, Doria Meiseles, Adina Brooks, Rivka Cohen and Adina Schwartz, play-acted their persona and were excellent performers. Five lawyers, Shira Rosenblum, Jennifer Gubitz, Chana Fish, Mira Postelnek and Danya Saperstein, were professional, acted like real lawyers, pitched in for each other and were a real challenge to the other schools in the competition. The Bruriah Mock Trial team is tough to contend with!

By Shifra Isaacs (‘19)

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