A TJ junior and his mock trial teammates bring home a state trophy.
by Christina Danek
photo by Manuel Perez
Excitement and nerves ran high in a Ft. Collins courtroom on March 14th and 15th, 2008 as TJ Junior Elie Reiss and his mock trial team presented their case in front of a panel of judges, in the 23rd annual Colorado Bar Association High School Mock Trial Tournament.
Last year the team from George Washington High School became the first DPS high school ever to reach the state level of competition. Though they had to settle for second place in 2007, the team returned to state to claim their victory this year, placing first over Palmer High School. With this victory, the team will advance to the national competition, which will be held May 8th-10th in Delaware.
Mock trial tournaments involve groups of 6 to 12 students performing a court trial in front of a set of judges. Each team presents both the prosecution and the defense for a particular case, with some students acting as attorneys, and the others as witnesses. The students prepare their case for several months leading up to a competition, and then present it to a presiding Colorado judge or magistrate, while several attorneys score the students.
Students perform all roles, and are judged on how well they know the case, question witnesses, advocate their side of the argument, and make and respond to objections, as well as how well witnesses play their roles and use dramatic speaking and persuasive argument skills, the Colorado Bar Association explains.
Mock trials are scored based on both individual and group performance, as Reiss described. “You get graded as an individual, but also by the way you work with your lawyers, and by the way the lawyers work together. They have to make it all flow together from the beginning to end, and from the introduction to conclusion, and through all of the statements. So it’s really a team effort, but you also get graded on your individual work.”
Reiss participated in mock trial competitions during 9th and 10th grade while he was at GW, and he was allowed to continue his involvement after coming to TJ, since this school doesn’t have a team of its own. His favorite part of the whole trial process is the actual competition. “It’s really just a lot of fun. It makes you think on your feet. You really have to be able to get into it and understand the courtroom procedure.”
Does he ever get nervous? “All the time,” Elie admitted. “I’ve had to sit in front of Colorado Supreme Court justices, lawyers, some of the heads of big law firms…I handle the pressure because I have to stay in my part. A key part of being a witness is acting, so I have to act that I’m not nervous.”
The team is now looking to see what they accomplish in Delaware in the May event. Reiss recognizes that Nationals is a whole new level of competition, but with a strong trial and not-so-much error, the team can go far.