Ten Stillwater Area High School students are starting a mock trial team this Thursday Oct. 24 after gaining inspiration from a class final. The team, which is new this year, was made possible with a partnership between Eckberg Lammers law office and the students involved in the new club.
“A couple of friends and I took the law and justice class and the final was the mock trial,” said junior Mitchell Sell, who is the driving force behind the club. “It was a really fun and challenging experience, and we wanted to take the experience a little further and continue it going forward.”
Lawyers from Eckberg Lammers have served as mock trial judges in Mike Kaul’s law and justice class.
“The kids just do such a great job with the mock trial so when they asked us to help we wanted to do it,” said attorney coach Amanda Prutzman. Six attorneys, in addition to Prutzman from Eckberg Lammers, are planning on working with the team this year. They include: Tom Weidner, Kevin Sandstrom, Mike McCain, Rebecca Christensen, Jeff Kemp, and Beth Kelly. They talked with the students throughout the summer and decided that they wanted to help the students out. So the firm agreed to pay the team’s registration fees and to host the team practices at their office.
The student team consists of seven juniors and three seniors. Some, like Sell, are interested in pursuing law after high school.
“I would like to go law school,” Sell said. “I have a family friend that is a lawyer and I’ve gotten to watch several of his trials so I’m looking into colleges that have an accelerated law program.”
A mock trial team would be able to give these students potentially valuable experience.
“It will be really cool,” Prutzman said. “We’re looking forward to pretty much everything. Going through the trial mechanics with them and working on courtroom procedure and decorum. This could be helpful in future courtrooms, because a lot of students joining mock trial want to be lawyers, which could really help in their professional lives.”
The mock trial team is a program of the Minnesota BAR association and teaches students how to work both sides of a case, including simplified rules of evidence and both the plaintiff and defense arguments. The case that will be used throughout the year became available on Friday, and it’s a civil case.
“They’ll also learn how to be witnesses, learn all the facts related to the case and stay true to their witness statements,” Prutzman said. “It’s all part of a story. People will tell what happened. Some will be witnesses, and they can make it colorful. They’ll learn how to close and cross examine witnesses too.”
Local competitions begin in January followed by regional competition, which is similar to the playoffs, according to Sell. Two trial winners are determined in five rounds. State competition takes place in Duluth in February, and a national competition takes place after that.
“It’s super fun to prepare for the competitions,” Sell said. “Some of the challenges we’ll face are knowing how the whole system works, since we’re brand new to all this, but we’ll just keep preparing as best we can to put out our best performances.”
“We’re really excited, and we’re hoping for big success from this team,” Prutzman said.
Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]