Stuyvesant Mock Trial Finishes Their Competition Season

Stuyvesant’s mock trial team recently completed their competition season, ending the year with varying success.

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Stuyvesant’s mock trial team competed in the New York State High School Mock Trial Program throughout January and February, concluding their season on February 28. The team had varying success, winning their first competition on January 31 in 100 Centre St. Courthouse, while losing the following competition on February 28. The team is given a case annually, containing all the information needed to prepare for legal trial simulations. Team members then form three sections: plaintiffs’ attorneys, defendants’ attorneys, and witnesses. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and defendants’ attorneys prepare opening and closing arguments while witnesses are questioned to help provide information surrounding the case. The entire team works together in preparation for both sides of the trial.

The mock trial team was formed in the spring semester of 2022, during which they alternated between doing mock trial and moot court. Mock trial simulates trial-level courts, while moot court simulates appellate proceedings. For mock trials, the team started with recruitments for witnesses and attorneys. After multiple auditions and selections, they reviewed the case files, which consist of all of the affidavits, evidence, and rules.

To begin preparation for competitions, members comprehensively read through the case. This year, the case involved Remington Stone, a man suing his employer for damages after being injured while constructing a house. Witnesses must learn their story in their affidavits while attorneys focus on the questioning aspect. After gaining a general understanding of the case, members work on forming and refining arguments. Afterward, they prepare to respond to counter arguments and to be cross-examined about their case by the opposing side.

Members spent ample time in meetings and over school breaks to prepare for the competition. As preparation, members worked with people who share their roles to formulate questions and arguments, practice arguing all aspects of their cases, and examine them together to help solidify their arguments. “A lot of [the preparation] is being able to feel each other out, and [learning] to elicit or implicate a certain storyline through a series of questions and answers,” senior and mock trial co-captain Talia Hsia said.

Another important aspect of preparation was cooperation, with more experienced members of the mock trial team helping newer members through the process of preparing for the competition. “We have newer people, so we all helped each other,” freshman Lourdes Krestula said. “The people who have more experience helped us get into [the team].”

Additionally, the team practiced withstanding each type of examination their cases would have to go through. “Obviously, we don’t know how the opposing team is going to handle their causes and their objections, [so] it’s really good to get practice in,” junior Miro Quigley said. “I think the main thing we did was object to their questions as well as work through the flow.”

During the first competition, the team was faced with many questions and challenges from the opposing side, starting with a round of preliminary questions which members found easier to answer. However, as the competition progressed, the questions increased in difficulty. “The trial did go on for a very long time as both sides were objecting quite a bit and the judge was also giving his comments and critique,” Quigley said. “[The] opposing team was very good, so we were all nervous.”

While the team faced challenging critiques by both the judges and the opposing side, the difficulty helped to create a more rewarding experience. “A natural part of competition and mock trial is criticism and critiques are taken more as an opportunity for learning and improving our skills,” Hsia said in a follow-up e-mail interview.

Following the preliminary competition, the team advanced to a second competition, in which they lost the round by two points. While the team prepared similarly in both rounds, they believe their presentation caused their loss. “The judge said that we would have won the case had it been in a real court, [so] we lost the round most likely on presentation,” Hsia said.

Looking back on the season, team members feel that confidence in their preparation is crucial to success in competition. “The main thing is just not being nervous, and really understanding [what] you’re trying to get out because you can’t memorize every question [and] just read from your paper,” Krestula said. “When you’re in a competition, [...] you don't know what the other team is going to bring out, [so] you kind of have to just be very ready. It has to come naturally to you.”

Ultimately, the mock trial team hopes to use this experience to improve in the coming years. “Going forward we plan to hone our skills and review the competition,” Hsia said. “After that, us captains will have to start thinking about the future of the team and passing the torch after we graduate.”