On Friday Jan. 20, students from several Delaware County high schools (Big Walnut, Delaware Hayes, Olentangy Orange, Village Academy, and Westerville North), plus Columbus Bishop Watterson, will participate in the 2017 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition.
The competition is a statewide event in which more than 3,500 high-school students participate each year.
In Delaware County, the district competition will be held in the courtrooms at the juvenile-and-probate court in the Hayes Building. Five student mock trials will take place from 9:15 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 20, and then another five trials will be held from around 1:15 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. that day.
The students who participate in the program are given written materials that enable them to portray witnesses and lawyers on both sides of a fictional legal dispute, and they present their cases to three-member panels of local attorneys who have volunteered their time to serve as judges for the competition.
Each team is comprised of five to eleven students, and each team participates in two trials on the day of the competition.
The fictional case for the 2017 mock trials will focus on a defamation claim by a public official against an online newspaper. The newspaper posted an online news story indicating that the public official had killed a school principal. The story, though not accurate, went viral, and the public official lost his reelection campaign.
In his defamation suit against the newspaper, the public official argues that the newspaper acted with reckless disregard for the truth and that the false story damaged his reputation and caused him to lose the election.
Students who participate in the mock-trial competition learn firsthand about the law and about court procedures, and they build analytical and communication skills. District winners from throughout the state will advance to a regional competition on Feb. 10. The state finals are on March 9-11 in Columbus.
The annual high-school mock-trial competition is sponsored by a nonprofit organization called the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE), which in turn is funded by the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Attorney General’s office, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the ACLU of Ohio. OCLRE also offers other programs designed to motivate young people to learn more about civics, government, and the law.