Written by Abby Trueblood
“Order! Order in the court!”
How exactly does a virtual courtroom get disorderly? It’s full of TEENAGERS — that’s how…
The Wisconsin High School Mock Trial program has been run by the State Bar of Wisconsin since its creation in the early 1980s. Attorneys, judges, and volunteers elect to spend a Saturday in February judging the student competitions.
The State Bar drafts a fictitious court case and assigns it to Mock Trial participants in October. High school students then work for months preparing to present their case in front of a judge at the regional tournament, with the hope of making it on to the state semifinal competition at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison in early March and then on to the state finals at the Wisconsin State Capitol later that month.
The winner of the 2021 state finals will compete with teams from across the U.S. — as well as from Guam, South Korea, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands — in the Mock Trial National Championship in Evansville, IN, May 13–15.
The tournament helps students learn studying and time-management skills, too. They often spend hours upon hours taking notes and reviewing their assigned case as they prepare themselves to be “tested” on their assigned material in a live courtroom setting — a mock trial.
While many students who participate in the Mock Trial competition do go on to pursue law as their career path, others use the skills gained from this unique experience to enter such fields as teaching, medicine, and politics.
So, who won the 2021 Mock Trial competition?
Well, the line for who did and who didn’t win got a little blurred this year.
In previous years, both the first- and second-place winners went on to the state competition. But not this year…
For reasons related to the pandemic, it was decided that only the first-place winner would continue on to state this year — a temporary change to the qualifier rules that will not be repeated in future years.
That meant that the solitary winner of the 2021 Mock Trial Regional Competition was…
Rhinelander High School
Coming back for another record win (after a 2-year second-place streak), Rhinelander High School came out on top.
Winning nationals in 1989, 6 years after the creation of the Mock Trial program — and staying strong with a 31-year streak — Rhinelander has made quite the name for themselves. Runner-up to D.C. Everest in 2019 and 2020, Rhinelander’s Mock Trial team has represented the Wausau district at state for the past 33 years!
Certainly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the time to highlight this year’s second-place winner:
Wausau West High School
After steadily climbing the ranks for the past 7 years since its foundation, the Wausau West High School Mock Trial team had a year for the books. Starting off a little shaky, the team was almost unable to compete, having too few reliable team members. But ultimately, the competitors pulled a team together and set their sights on state.
This would have been the team’s third non-consecutive year qualifying for state and its second consecutive year. However, due to the more restrictive qualifier regulations implemented this year due to the pandemic, Wausau West unfortunately remained unrepresented.
Making matters worse, this is the team’s second year in a row with a state letdown, as the news that state was cancelled for the 2020 competition due to the coronavirus came just 15 minutes before the team was supposed to board the bus!
Who won the virtual state competition on March 6–7?
Of the 11 competing teams (from the 11 mock trial regions in Wisconsin), Waukesha South won the State Championship.
What do students have to say about the Mock Trial experience?
I asked a few participants from Wausau West about why they got involved in Mock Trial. Here’s what they had to say:
“Mock Trial is a great life experience. Each year, you are able to get to know new people, learn new things — like how to do a trial over Zoom — and improve. I enjoyed doing it over Zoom, not only because that was what real court was doing, but also to be able to have everybody be able to do it and be comfortable.”
— Amber Frostman, Sophomore, Wausau West High School
“Mock is such a unique experience. It’s an odd mix of preparation and improv that ensures that no two competitions are the same.”
— Brad Dickas, Junior, Wausau West High School
Wausau West Mock Trial. (Photo courtesy Cathy Newton.)
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If you have any interest in getting a student involved in mock trial — or in supporting the students doing it now — check out the State Bar website and contact your local high school to see what you can do for a local team. Every contribution is beyond appreciated!
Mock Trial Participant | Wausau West High School
Abby Trueblood is currently a Junior at Wausau West High School in Wausau Wisconsin. She has participated in 3 years of Mock Trial at Wausau West so far and is looking forward to a fourth year come fall. Her future plans involve going into law, and she has had the distinct pleasure of job shadowing and working with every part of Marathon County Public Law aside from Judicare. Outside of Mock Trial, you can usually find her in the school auditorium, outside with her dog, Cosmo, and otherwise extremely busy.
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