VOL. 115 | NO. 40 | Thursday, March 1, 2001
Arkansas youth mock trials fosters high ideals and public service
Fledgling legal eagles take flight in mock trials
By MARY DANDO
The Daily News
The state that produced a boy from Hope who became first a lawyer and then a president will introduce more than 300 students to the legal profession as the Arkansas Bar Associations 2001 Mock Trial Competition begins Saturday.
Teams from Marion Junior High, Tuckerman, Nettleton and Izard County high schools will face off in regional competition in Marion, Ark. Cases will be heard beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Crittenden County Courthouse.
Presiding judges will be John Fogleman of Marion and David Laser of Jonesboro.
Teacher coordinator for the region is Marion Junior High teacher Sandy Cook, who is working with West Memphis attorney Richard West and teacher coach for the team, Mike Holcomb.
The Youth Mock Trial program has existed for six years. It allows students ages 14 through 19 to exercise leadership skills while learning through experience about the legal system.
"The children on the teams have to be prepared to argue either the defense side or the prosecution side, so they have to know their cases," Cook said.
The Arkansas mock trial program is one of more than 45 high school mock trial competitions held across the nation.
"This is one of the things we do for the well being of the legal profession," said Ron Harrison, ABA president.
"It captures the imagination of talented young people just as they are beginning to make career decisions. Its in the best interests of the profession and the public to introduce the most promising students to the profession as early as we can," he said.
The Youth Mock Trial competition is made possible by funding from the Arkansas Bar Foundation and the Arkansas Interest On Lawyers Trust Account Foundation.
All 33 teams competing have prepared a case for trial involving child abuse. In the audience will be teachers and friends listening to both sides of the case being presented before a judge and jury.
Two teams will emerge victorious from the region and will go on to compete on the state level March 9-10. The state champion will then compete at the national event held in Omaha, Neb., May 10-13.
Becky Gravely, the organizer for the states Youth Mock Trial program, said it is a lot of hard work but it is very rewarding.
Part of the reward came last year, when Little Rock Central placed fifth in the nation, she said.
"They are very accomplished and take this very seriously. They work hard.
"Its quite an honor to work with these young people that have a mindset of such dedication," she said.
Most of the students participate in the mock trials through gifted and talented programs at their school.
"Its very impressive. I have been to some of the law school mock trial programs and they sit before a judge and act as though they are going through the process. These kids at the high school level are equally, if not more, impressive," Gravely said.
A mock trial, similar to an actual court trial, requires team members to serve as attorneys and witnesses in a jury trial. Although each team is allowed eight members, only six actively participate during any given portion of the competition.
Volunteers serve as scoring judges, teacher sponsors and attorney coaches. Presiding judges and attorney coaches are volunteers from the legal community.
Each team prepares the same case with the help of attorney and teacher coaches. The teams present their cases according to established rules governing trial procedures, which are somewhat modified from those of formal trials.
The Arkansas Bar Association, founded in 1898 is a voluntary, statewide association with more than 4,400 members. Among its stated purposes are the advancement of the administration of justice in Arkansas and the fostering of high ideals of integrity, learning and public service among its members.