Photo Credit: Jeffrey Thiebauth
The State Championship of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2018 High School Mock Trial Program was held in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Massachusetts State House on March 20.
Newton North High School was named State Champion of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2018 High School Mock Trial Program on March 20, prevailing against its in-town rival, Newton South High School. Conducted in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Massachusetts State House, this year’s Mock Trial fittingly took place on the same day that lawmakers released a bipartisan bill under which participation in civics projects would be a prerequisite for graduation.
Newton North, which captured its 11th state title since 1988, after last winning in 2016, will next travel to the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Reno, Nevada, May 10-12. A portion of their trip will be funded by a $2,500 donation from the Massachusetts Bar Association’s philanthropic partner, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.
MBF President Harvey Weiner said his organization annually funds a range of initiatives that provide access to equal justice for low-income individuals, including 55,000 last year alone, with the Mock Trial contribution representing a unique honor for both donors and recipients. “We fund many types of programs, but we only fund one mock trial grant and it is for the winners of the statewide MBA mock trial championships,” said Weiner.
Started in 1985, the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Mock Trial Program began its 33rd year in January. More than 1,500 students at 133 high schools from around Massachusetts competed in the 2018 program, which placed high school teams from across the state in simulated courtroom situations where they assumed the roles of lawyers, defendants and witnesses in hypothetical cases.
This year, the teams were presented with a fictional civil case involving the death of a prominent man from an explosion. The dispute was over the enforceability and payout under a $5 million life insurance policy. Newton North, which played the role of the defense during the final, earned a unanimous victory from the judges in both the decision of the case and the overall scoring of the match.
Reflecting on his school’s victory, Newton North team captain Ilai Gavish reserved special praise for members of the opposing team, whom he called “really impressive.” He added, “I’m proud of both sides for how they performed and it was a really enjoyable experience. I’m very thankful to have had this opportunity, especially in this great setting.”
The state championship was judged by a three-member panel (a presiding judge, and two scoring judges), similar to the process used at the national mock trial competition. This year’s judging panel included Hon. Mark D Mason, presiding justice, Massachusetts Superior Court; Hon. Kenneth V. Desmond Jr., Massachusetts Appeals Court; and Hon. Kathe M. Tuttman, Massachusetts Superior Court.
Mason commended all student participants for demonstrating an “exceptionally high level of professionalism, civility and expertise,” along with a “sophisticated understanding of our legal system, and in particular, the nature and workings of a trial.” In addition, he impressed upon students that their success would have been unattainable if not for the extraordinary support of their coaches, teachers, parents, friends and family members.
Hon. Thomas J. Barbar, a Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge who also serves as MBA secretary, spoke to the students before the championship round commenced. “Neither school is a stranger to these finals, and both teams should be commended for their success this year,” Barbar said. “How appropriate that mock trial students find themselves in this historic and inspiring venue, where our laws are debated and created by our elected representatives — many of whom are lawyers themselves. Perhaps someday our participants here today will also become part of the Massachusetts legal community.”
The Mock Trial Program is administered by the Massachusetts Bar Association, with support from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation and Morrison Mahoney LLP. Nearly 140 lawyers across the state volunteered as coaches and judges this year.
Incorporated in 1911, the Massachusetts Bar Association is a non-profit organization that serves the legal profession and the public by promoting the administration of justice, legal education, professional excellence and respect for the law. The MBA represents a diverse group of attorneys, judges and legal professionals across the commonwealth.