Newton North High wins Mock Trial state championship

Issue April 2004

Justice Roderick Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court presides over the Mock Trial state championship.
Newton North High School won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2004 Mock Trial Championship, a competition that places high school students in a simulated courtroom situation where they assume the roles of lawyers, defendants and witnesses in a hypothetical case. The team competed against students from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School of Hadley in the Great Hall of Faneuil Hall in Boston on March 23.

Newton North High School is now eligible to go on to the Mock Trial National Championship, in Orlando, Fla. in May.

More than 350 people attended the event. Supreme Judicial Court Justice Roderick L. Ireland, presiding judge on the case, commended the students from both teams for their superior work and distinguished talent.

"This year's Mock Trial competition was exceptionally well done," said Ireland. "This year's case was the most difficult case I have seen in this program in the last 10 to 15 years."

The runner-up, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, was defeated by one point according to Ireland and was presented with a silver platter from the Massachusetts Bar Association for its hard work and strong team effort.

Ireland applauded students from both teams for their great communication skills and ability to capture an audience - a skill he said is essential to becoming a great lawyer.

"Both teams were very talented and very spirited," said Ireland. "I have been doing this for 27 years and these students are as good as any lawyers that I have seen in court."

The annual Mock Trial competition is organized by the Mock Trial Committee of the Massachusetts Bar Association and sponsored for the sixth year in a row by the Boston law firm of Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels LLP. Funding for Newton North High School to travel to the National Championship is provided by the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.

This year's Mock Trial case involved the issue of infringement of copyrighted material by a third person. A college student in a professor's music appreciation class makes a musician's work widely available via the Internet. Was the student encouraged to infringe the copyright of the musician or was the student the lone infringer? The case asks the question of whether the professor was liable for contributory infringement by encouraging file sharing or if the student's action was a fair use of the musician's work in a scholastic setting.

Under the rules of Mock Trial, the two teams conducted a coin toss to determine which side of the case each would argue. This strategy requires that members of each team be prepared to handle the dual roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, defendants and various witnesses. This year, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School took the role of the prosecution, while Newton North High School took the side of the defense.

This year's Mock Trial competition involved a record 117 teams from across the commonwealth. More than 200 MBA-member lawyers and judges volunteered their time to serve as coaches, judges and committee members.

The volunteer attorney coaches were Elliot Loew of Newton for Newton North High School and Robert W. Schute of Chicopee for Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School.