Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : May 2007

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Volunteer Lawyers Teach Young People About the Law

~MSBA Mock Trial Competition attracts 2,000+ high school students~

Every year, MSBA offers the Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition so thousands of Maryland high school students, teachers, attorneys and judges can engage in lively courtroom drama in courtrooms across the state. This MSBA public service program is a learning experience for high school students, giving them firsthand knowledge about our rule of law, trial procedures and the role attorneys and judges play in our legal system. Through this popular contest, MSBA volunteer lawyers and judges teach young people about the law in an entertaining and interactive way.

This year’s Mock Trial Competition culminated on April 27 with a final match in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. While Severn High School emerged as the 2007 champion, defeating Allegany High School, every student who participated in the competition was a winner. They honed skills that will prove valuable in their future and gained a better understanding of our justice system by seeing it in action.

For the last 24 years, MSBA’s Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP) has presented the Mock Trial Competition as a public education program to teach young people about the law and enhance their understanding of our legal system. The Mock Trial Competition offers high school students a valuable insight into the workings of our justice system so that they can better understand its function in society. They see the law in action and develop a more constructive attitude about our country’s legal system.

They actually began last fall, when 132 teams of high school students representing every circuit in the state started preparing for MSBA’s 2007 Mock Trial Competition with their respective teacher and volunteer lawyer coaches. The student teams enact a mock trial while a volunteer judge deliberates. The competitions begin in each county, advance to regional matches and culminate with the state championship. Overall, 600+ enactments of the mock trial are convened during the competition.

The Mock Trial Competition gives young people the opportunity to go into a real courtroom and learn about the law and our legal system while exploring a contemporary issue that affects their lives. The trials always focus on a timely topic that directly impacts high school students. This year’s case involved cyber stalking and the misuse of the Internet and the dangers they pose to young people who think they are safe in cyberspace. Patterned after a recent Court of Appeals of Maryland case, the trial explored what constitutes stalking and the use and misuse of instant messaging and e-mail.

“In many ways the Mock Trial Competition is the perfect method for teaching high school students about the law and court system,” states CLREP Director Ellery “Rick” Miller. “It is highly interactive, teaches life skills and provides the opportunity for judges, attorneys and students to interact with one another in a unique format. Also, it gives us an opportunity to help students learn about substantive issues, whether it is Internet usage, as in this year’s case, or past cases that explored fetal alcohol syndrome or driving under the influence.”
CLREP has presented this educational legal contest since its inception in 1983. Working with students, teachers, volunteer attorney coaches and judges, CLREP maps out the competition, registers and assists school teams, develops and publishes the casebook and schedules and manages the competition. Most teams devote an average of 100+ hours of preparation to analyze the case and master team strategy and competition time to the mock trial program, although the time commitment does go as high as 150 hours for some teams.
The volunteer attorneys and judges enjoy the competition, too, and find it quite rewarding. They interact with students in a creative and educational environment and get caught up in the excitement along with the students. To date, more than 36,000 young people have participated in the Mock Trial program.

CLREP, MSBA’s educational arm, offers a number of opportunities for Maryland attorneys and judges to volunteer in public education programs in state schools. It also sponsors Law Links, peer mediation, school violence prevention and produces a wealth of publications and materials. MSBA members interested in volunteering for any law-related program may contact CLREP at (410) 706-5360 or visit www.clrep.org.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May  2007