Over 40 Indian Creek seniors learned the basics of civil litigation by participating in a mock trial in the Jack and Nancy Becker Center for Performing Arts on January 27. Seniors were divided into a team of prosecutors, a defense team, witnesses, and a jury, and they carried out a trial centering on a dispute about an injury that occurred at a commercial property.
A joint project between Mr. Sheppard’s and Mrs. Montgomery’s Government classes, the exercise gave students an immersive and collaborative way to experience what it is like to work in law and be part of a trial. “I thought it was a super cool experience to do something like that,” said senior Danny Swope, a member of the trial’s winning defense team. “It’s very different from just learning about cases, to be actually in the case, preparing for it, get the feeling of going up in front of all of the people, asking your questions, thinking about it in a different way, so I thought it was a really interesting experience.”
The trial was overseen by Maryland District Court Judge (and ICS parent) Shaem Spencer, whose significant real-world experience gave the mock trial an authentic feel. Participants adhered to courtroom norms, standards, and procedures, and students in other grade levels were able to visit and observe the trial as it unfolded.
Senior Havana Mullaly, who has an interest in law and intends to pursue it as a career, excelled in her role as a lawyer for the defense team by thoroughly questioning witnesses. “I was a cross-examiner for the defense team,” said Mullaly. “It was definitely my favorite project in AP Government. I really enjoyed doing this project, because I learned how to prepare a case and find out how to almost be a lawyer. It was really fun working with a team and working together to fight for our client.”
Swope plans to study engineering in college, but he was happy to have a window into the legal profession. “I’m going into engineering, but this was an interesting thing to think about maybe this is something I could look at doing or taking classes in,” said Swope. “In engineering, there’s different things like intellectual property, so there’s ways to combine both interests.”
Senior Addy Mock, who gave the opening statement for the defense team, saw tremendous value in getting an up-close look at what a trial is like. “It was really interesting,” said Mock. “We worked on it as a class, and in class it was interesting seeing everyone’s side, how they were formulating their case, seeing what arguments they were going to give to the other side, how they were preparing. I have more respect now for all of it. You can tell how much work goes into it.”
Associate Head of School and Upper School Principal Mrs. Eliza McLaren praised the classes for learning in a dynamic, challenging format. “Mr. Sheppard and Ms. Montgomery proved the effectiveness of ‘project-based learning’ for assessment and engagement,” she shared. “By assigning a mock trial as their mid-term exam, they showed that we can go beyond traditional paper and pencil tests and written papers to engaging, real-world simulations that lead to enduring learning. Most schools that participate in mock trials run auditions for the top three or four spots; at ICS, every student in government class participated, and every single student rose to the challenge. Well done!”Click here to view a full gallery of Mock Trial photos.