Building Bridges to Tomorrow
~Severna Park High School victorious as Mock Trials conclude;
final installment in a three-part series~
| "The builder lifted his old gray head/ Good friend,
in the path I have come," he said,/ "There followeth after me today/
A youth whose feet must pass this way./ This chasm that has been
naught to me/ To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be./ He, too,
must cross in the twilight dim;/ Good friend, I am building the bridge
- William Allen Dromgoole,
"The Bridge Builder"
Though the Honorable Clayton Greene, Jr., did not recite this poem until
the Awards Luncheon that followed the 23rd Annual MSBA High School Mock Trial
State Championship, the words resounded throughout the Robert C. Murphy Court
of Appeals Building in Annapolis, where the championship was held on April
Tensions and nerves rode high as the mock trial teams from Severna Park High
School and Park High School entered into Maryland's highest court, prepared
to face off in the final match. The anxiety in the courtroom was palpable as
Judge Greene rose to announce that Severna Park had captured their first Mock
Trial Championship by a narrow margin over Park. Shrieks, tears and hugs immediately
erupted throughout the room as the teams congratulated each other on a well-played
"You are all winners here today," Greene noted, adding how this was a "grand
opportunity" for the students and that "it was truly a joy to watch your performance."
That both teams had gained more than a plaque certainly rang true with the
packed courthouse, which met the conclusion of the two teams' closing arguments
with a standing ovation.
"From start to finish it was a stellar performance," said Greene. "The [student]
lawyers worked and labored with the case. Both teams succinctly and concisely
presented [their] cases."
Plaintiff Severna Park and Park, the Defense, jockeyed for the upper hand
throughout the match with the use of a series of objections and contrived maneuvers.
The case, as it was all year, pertained to the Maryland Reporter Shield Law – the
protection of a reporter's anonymous source in the face of a criminal investigation.
In this particular case, the Plaintiff tried to prove that a reporter from The
Baltimore Sun had had contact with June Harris and her son, whom she had
kidnapped, and had knowledge of their whereabouts. The Defense maintained that
there was not enough solid evidence to prove that the reporter had been in
contact with Harris and, therefore, did not have to reveal his sources. To
this end, the Defense employed a high-risk, all-or-nothing approach to combat
the Plaintiff's arguments, which ultimately cost them some points.
"I am proud [the students] pushed forward with the strategy knowing it was
a risk," said Tina Forbush, Park's teacher-coach for the last six years.
From the start, Park's strategy stipulated that any information pertaining
to Harris's being an unfit mother be disallowed because of its irrelevance
to the case (Park employed a similar tactic in the 2004 competition and was
a major component to their victory in that year's championship). Park objected
to Severna Park's calling of a social worker to the stand, stating that her
testimony would be irrelevant. The move took both the Judge and Plaintiff by
surprise, leaving the case at a standstill. After thorough contemplation, however,
the Judge allowed the witnesses' testimony.
"We knew it could go either way – the Judge was fair in letting the
case worker testify," said Forbush, admitting that, due to the ruling, the
objection had made them "look too aggressive and over objecting."
Each team was broken into two factions: three members played attorneys while
three others served as witnesses. The competition was scored by Greene, Sara
Arthur and Alice Chong, who each graded different categories. Attorneys were
evaluated on their opening and closing statements, as well as their examinations
and cross-examinations of witnesses. Conversely, witnesses were graded on their
performance, including their believability, credibility and knowledge of the
"The teams were well-matched," noted Shelley Wojciechowski, Assistant Director
of Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP), which organizes the Mock
Trial Competition. "It was a fair and balanced competition. Great atmosphere
for students who are learning law."
"You are all fine ambassadors of our democracy, and it's a reason for celebration," MSBA
President-Elect Edward J. Gilliss told the students. "The law is a wonderful
The path for the lawyers of tomorrow is a long and winding road, but through
programs like the MSBA High School Mock Trial Competition and under the guidance
of today's lawyers, these students are endowed with the navigational tools
necessary for successful passage.