The Center for Civic Values is excited to offer a New Mexico Middle School Mock Trial Program. Education of young people is the primary goal of the mock trial program and is open to all New Mexico 7th and 8th graders. This academic program is an introduction to mock trial. Teams are made up of two witnesses, two attorneys and one timekeeper (you may have as many as ten students on a team, but only four plus one time keeper may compete in any given round) on each side (prosecution/plaintiff and defense) of the case. Working with their mentors, the students use a problem provided by CCV—a statement of the facts, witness depositions, legal authorities and rules—to prepare opening statements, direct and cross-examinations and closing arguments. The cases are presented before a presiding judge and a “juror” where the teams are judged on their demonstrated knowledge and presentation skills, rather than on the legal merits of the issue at hand.
In addition to students who participate as lawyers, witnesses and timekeepers each school may have one courtroom artist and one courtroom journalist as part of the team to allow additional talented students the opportunity to participate in the mock trial program. Artists observe trials and submit sketches that depict actual courtroom scenes. Journalists observe trial and submit articles based on the trial.
Coaches help students develop questioning, critical thinking and oral advocacy skills. Mock Trial helps students to improve proficiency in such basic skills as listening, speaking, reading, and reasoning, and it fosters cooperation among diverse groups of young people.
Mock trial has proven to be an effective and popular part of a comprehensive, law-focused program designed to provide young people with an operational understanding of the law, legal issues and the judicial process. Part of the appeal of a mock trial is the fun involved in preparing for, and participating in, a trial. Mock trials are exciting, but more importantly, they provide invaluable learning experiences.
Participation in, and analysis of, mock trials provides young people with an insider’s perspective from which to learn about courtroom procedures. Mock trial helps students gain a basic understanding of the legal mechanism through which society chooses to resolve many of its disputes.
Mock trial also provides an opportunity to incorporate field experiences and community resource persons into the educational process. Visits to local courts will make the activity a more meaningful learning experience. Inviting judges, attorneys, and other members of the community to take part in the program helps to bridge the gap between the simulated activity and reality and also allows these individuals to share their knowledge and experience with young people. Finally, mock trial gives participants practical knowledge about the courts and trials which can be invaluable should they ever be jurors or witnesses in a real trial or principals in a legal action.