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Midvale Journal

Midvale Middle School’s Mock trial team traditionally strong

May 08, 2017 04:19PM ● By Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School’s team, seen here, traditionally has been a top competitor in mock trial. (Christiana Forbush)

By Julie Slama  |   [email protected]
Team A or Team Z usually contends in the finals of the junior division of mock trial. This means, one of these teams are one of the top 40 teams across the state.
Those teams are represented by Midvale Middle School’s seventh- and eighth-graders in competition cases involving a criminal or civil case. Although sixth-graders can’t compete, two sixth-graders make up the 24 members who are on the teams so they can gain exposure to mock trial.
Coached by social studies and history teacher Christiana Forbush, the mock trial students spend the year preparing and learning about the competition. After applying and interviewing to make the teams, they begin learning about burden of proof, understanding courtroom procedures and polishing presentation skills.
By November, they’re learning the roles of those involved in trial cases and begin practice rounds so they can learn argumentative skills.
By January, students usually are preparing for competition in their homeroom classes as well as two hours after school twice each week or more, she said.
It’s also when students learn the topic for the trial—this year, it was a criminal case accusing a landowner of starting a fire that spread, burning 60,000 acres in a national park. And they audition for roles as lawyers, witnesses and bailiff.
“We pick the teams at that time and see what best balances each team,” Forbush said.  “We also decide who will be better lawyers versus better witnesses.”
The students then prepare for the trials, which will be conducted by three judges, typically working judges themselves or lawyers, paralegals, law students or others involved in the legal system.
“Students learn a lot about courtroom procedures and decorum as well as teamwork and how to handle pressure. A few of the students want to enter the law field.  For most, it’s more appealing as they like to debate and act, so through mock trial, they’re able to do both,” she said.
Forbush said mock trial students gain skills such as presentation, teamwork and self-confidence. They also learn critical study skills.
“These students can pull apart a text and be able to understand it better than anyone at the school,” she said.
That’s crucial in mock trial as lawyers will read and tear apart witness statements, Forbush added.
In February and March, the teams compete.  Midvale Middle usually goes all the way to the finals.  This year, the teams fell short.
“It’s the first time in 10 years we haven’t made the final four,” she said.  “I think our students are high achievers in school and involved in other activities like play rehearsals, math competitions, history fair and science fair, so we got stretched too thin down the stretch.”
Forbush, who began coaching mock trial 12 years ago at Provo High, said that there may be alterations in the way Midvale Middle’s mock trial is run next year with possible schedule changes.
Regardless, she knows she can count on returning members to be leaders for newcomers.
“The team takes ownership so they don’t rely on me.  They’re a pretty tight team; they work hard and have a lot of fun together,” she said.