High-school mock trials in Delaware


By Judge David Gormley - Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County - Special to The Sunbury News



On Friday January 18, students from several Delaware County high schools (Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley, Delaware Hayes, Village Academy, and Westerville North), plus three out-of-county high schools (Whetstone in Columbus, Dublin Jerome, and West Liberty-Salem) will be participating in the 2019 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition. The competition is a statewide event in which more than 3,000 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 January 18, and then another five trials will be held from around 1:15 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. that day.

The high-school 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.

In the fictional case for the 2019 mock trial, a criminal defendant is challenging the government’s ability to introduce as evidence a video recording made by a privately operated drone that appears to show the defendant sitting outside next to a notebook on which some incriminating information is scrawled. The hearing in which the students will participate will focus on the defendant’s reasonable expectation of privacy in those circumstances and whether the drone operator was a state actor.

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 February 15. The state finals are on March 7-9 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 State Bar Foundation, 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.

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By Judge David Gormley

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County

Special to The Sunbury News