Thursday, Apr. 3, 2008
From top to bottom:
Judging panel included (from right to left) Superior Court Justice Barbara A. Dortch-Okara, Superior Court Justice Howard J. Whitehead (presiding judge) and District Court Justice Barbara Savitt Pearson.
State Champion Newton South High School receives $2,500 travel grant from MBF Vice President Joseph P.J. Vrabel.
Members of the Pioneer Valley Performing Art Charter School mock trial team gather together before competition.
Newton South wins 2008 Mock Trial State Championship in two-one split decision
In what was hailed as the “best weighted case in 16 years” by presiding Judge Howard Whitehead, Newton South High School won the MBA’s 2008 High School Mock Trial State Championship on March 27. Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School in South Hadley was the runner-up in the finals, which were held in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall.
This year’s Mock Trial case, created by the 2008 MBA Mock Trial Committee, dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace. To prepare for trial, Newton South and Pioneer Valley attorneys were required to assess the alleged “hostile work environment” at a fictitious computer gaming company. Teams had to determine if a high school senior, while employed as a company intern, simply overreacted and perhaps needed to develop a thicker skin, or if the workplace was truly infested by a climate of behavior which exceeded the bounds of the law.
Newton South represented the defendant in the case, LunaTick Games, while Pioneer Valley represented the plaintiff, a student intern named Hal Smith.
Superior Court Justice Howard J. Whitehead presided over the proceedings with assistance from Superior Court Justice Barbara A. Dortch-Okara and District Court Justice Barbara Savitt Pearson. Mock Trial Committee Acting Chair Denise Coffey offered participants and attendees welcoming remarks.
Both teams impressed the judges, who commended them on their skills. “This is outstanding. I am really bowled over every time I see these performances,” said Dortch-Okara. She told the students, “If you want to compare yourselves to some practicing attorneys, you can do that.”
There were 211 total trials during the 2007-08 Mock Trial season, which began in January, at 53 different trial venues featuring 111 teams vying for the state title. Schools were initially divided into 16 geographic regions and competed in three preliminary rounds, with the team with the greatest percentage of wins in each region advancing to the championship “sweet sixteen” rounds.
“The MBA’s Mock Trial Program has been hugely successful,” said White. “The goal has remained to provide each student a chance to grow as an individual — to grow as someone who is able to work with and support others, as an informed citizen who understands our legal system, and as future leaders, who will use those skills to improve the lives of others in their communities.”
The Mock Trial Program is administered by the MBA and made possible by the international law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Berlack, Israels LLP through its Center for Public Interest in Boston, which has contributed $25,000 per year to the program since 1998.
After the competition, Massachusetts Bar Foundation Vice President Joseph P.J. Vrabel presented Newton South High School with a $2,500 travel grant to help defray the team’s trip to Wilmington, Del., where it will represent Massachusetts in the National High School Mock Trial competition in May.