Nine high school students spent months preparing for roles that required them to argue real court cases in an actual courtroom in the Nassau County Supreme Court. The mock trial team began researching their case and learning their roles for the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament in November and then entered the courtroom for the first time in February. Their efforts landed them in second place out of the original 52 teams competing.
Team members played the roles of three lawyers and six witnesses as they competed against other high school teams in front of a Nassau County judge. After arguing their case successfully, the Locust Valley team won the first six rounds and advanced to the semifinals.
The team’s adviser, high school teacher Patrick Barry, said preparing for the competition required a tremendous amount of work that taught the students about how a courtroom is run, legal terminology and strategy. The case they argued involved the succession rights to a rent-controlled apartment.
The mock lawyers needed to learn all the procedures of a real trial, as well as develop direct and indirect questions to ask witnesses on the stand. The mock witnesses learned every detail of the case so when they were cross-examined by other teams, they knew how to answer the questions with the facts. Rules of the tournament meant they could not make up any details relating to the case and could not lie on the stand.
The Nassau County Bar Association provided each team with an attorney coach to offer legal advice along the way. Richard Apat was the coach for the Locust Valley team and his endless hours of guidance were invaluable.
“Mr. Apat was an instrumental piece of our success,” Barry said. “He taught them to get right to the meat of the case, explaining that judges do not like listening to fluff. He also helped them with their strategy and taught them what would happen in the courtroom.”
Despite the assistance of an attorney, it was the hard work and dedication of the team that led to their overall success. Team captains, juniors Lisa Cheung, Julia Forte and Beatrix Postley, led the team, which also included Owen Byron, Sydney Collings, Hope Montell, Tighe Mullarkey, Griffin Postley and Ethan Vitale. The team was recognized and received a plaque at an awards ceremony on May 13.
Congratulations to the entire team on this outstanding accomplishment, which could only be achieved through the dedication of endless hours put in after school and on weekends.