Phillips Academy Advanced Mock Trial Team Victorious in Debut Interscholastic Competition, Judged by Superior Court Justices

In its first interscholastic competition on Sunday, Phillips Academy’s advanced Mock Trial team defeated the St. George’s School from Vancouver, Canada in the first Andover competition judged by federal judges. Out of 110 points, PA’s Mock Trial team received 99 points, winning by a three-point lead over St. George’s 96 points. Phillips Academy’s novice team, however, lost to Phillips Exeter Academy’s team by a single point, 80 to 81. Rob Buka ’09, President of Mock Trial, said, “The trial was evenly matched and Andover performed well with their witnesses.” Jane Thomas ’10 said, “It was a really fantastic experience. For intramural competition, you have an idea of how good your opponent is going to be, but for this [competition], you really don’t know what to expect – the only thing that is predictable in the court is your opening statement. So you can prepare as much as you can, but you never know (what the other team’s argument is going to be.” Mock Trial is only in its third year as a club. The advanced team that competed on Sunday consisted of 11 students, and the novice group consisted of 9 participants. Prior to this competition, the two advanced groups had participated in an intramural competition to qualify to compete on Sunday against St. George’s. Both teams began to prepare for PA Mock Trial’s first interscholastic competition during winter term. Buka, Peter Ly ’09 and David Lowenstein ’09 trained the novice team, while Alex Gottfried ’09 and Phil Oasis ’09 trained the team that would compete against the St. George’s team. Andi Zhou ’09 and Nana Matsushita ’09 trained another advanced team. In addition to being the first interscholastic competition, Sunday’s competition was also Phillips Academy’s first to host federal judges. Judges Philip Hollman and Jack Lu, two highly experienced Superior Court Justices, chose the winners of each mock trial based on the quality of each team’s direct examinations, cross examinations and witness performances. Judge Lu has 25 years of experience in mock trial competitions. According to Thomas, Lu “ran that trial like a real trial, and not with mock trial rules. He was very strict with court procedure and he overruled most of the objections.” Individuals were judged on a 0 to 10 scale on their abilities in public speaking, articulation, critical thinking, forming and answering questions, as well as behavior and ability to assume specific roles, according to Ly. Judge Lu named Thomas as runner up for “Outstanding Performance” for her excellent opening statement and cross-examination. Thomas said, “I walked in with 29 questions, but by the time during my cross examination, I had written down 10 more questions, most of which I have asked. You definitely have to know the case like the back of your hand.” The judge had also noted that she was “as skilled at making objections as most entry-level law students,” according to Thomas. Hoonie Moon ’10, who joined Mock Trial’s novice team during Winter Term, received individual Outstanding Performance in the competition against Exeter. “The novice teams’ performance was impressive because they not only developed a solid case in two terms, but they also learned all of the rules of Mock Trials in this short period,” said Buka. “I thought it went pretty well, since we’ve been prepping for two terms, and as a witness you have to learn your part and really think on your feet,” said Kerstin Brolsma ’11. “What’s exciting is that you don’t know what’s going to happen, and during cross-examination, it’s pretty intimidating [to be a witness],” said Shefali Lohia ’10. Cross-examination is the process of questioning the witnesses by the other team. “I think both teams did really well, I really hope we get to do something like that again,” said Thomas. “Unlike Philo or Model U.N., Mock Trial puts you in a situation that is a close simulation of real life and it something close to what you might be doing later on in life – I mean, tons of us could end up lawyers, so this experience really gives you great skills.” “We plan to enter the state competition next year, and feel that this experience was vital to that goal,” wrote Alex Gottfried, Vice President of Mock Trial, in an email to The Phillipian. Buka and the other Mock Trial board members look forward to the state competition next year, which will consist of over 100 teams competing within the state of Massachusetts. One of the 100 teams will advance to the national competition.