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BG Mock Trial team competes for crown

By Grace Pecci | Mar 21, 2019

NASHUA – Members of Bishop Guertin High School’s Mock Trial team are preparing to compete for the national championship.

The National High School Mock Trial Competition is set for May.

Last month, the Bishop Guertin team won the New Hampshire championship. The team’s coach, Bishop Guertin Theology teacher Brian Jackson, said this is the sixth time the school has won the New Hampshire title since 2011. Teams from 45 states will compete at the national event, Jackson said.

This year’s national championship will take place at the University of Georgia.

“It’s like the Super Bowl,” Jackson said.

Here, Bishop Guertin will compete against 45 of the top teams from across the country. Jackson said in total, there are about 3,000 mock trial teams in the country. Even if they get last place in this competition, they will still be ranked 45th in the nation.

Students spend weeks preparing for their competitions. At Bishop Guertin, students typically practice 1.5 hours, four to five days per week after school. The have longer practices as their competitions get closer. They learn both the state and federal judicial systems through practicing hypothetical cases, which can be either criminal cases or civil cases.

Jackson gives his students who will be acting as lawyers a package of laws at the beginning of the year to memorize. Students also have to be familiar with all terms of the courts.

Aside from having a teacher as a coach, Jackson said the team also works with a local attorney to strengthen their skills and knowledge of laws.

Students have the ability to switch the roles they play, depending on where their strengths and weaknesses lie. However, Jackson said some students will stick with serving as a lawyer during the mock trials because that is what they are interested in doing in their future.

The students who participate in the program learn critical reasoning and presentation skills. In addition, they also have to be able to know how to respond to their competitors. Jackson said especially during cross-examination part of competitions, students must know their next moves.

And the students in the roles of lawyers must know the federal rules, as well as have a strong grasp on their evidence and state laws. They then make a case as why it is appropriate in an objection.

“I think the benefit to being on this team is it really helps students to think on their feet,” Jackson said.

During their competitions, students compete in front of and are judged by experienced lawyers and judges.

The students, in their roles as lawyers and witnesses, are scored either by the presiding judge or scoring judge. Students are scored from 0-10, with 10 being the best. The most points received determines the winner.

Jackson also serves as the president of the Board for Mock Trial in New Hampshire. He and his fellow board members have continued to work to bring these programs to schools across the state after programs fell flat 10 years ago. Jackson said they are still looking to build the program, though there are about eight high schools who compete, including Manchester Central High School, Souhegan High School, The Derryfield School, Pinkerton Academy, St. Paul’s School and others.

From now until May, mock trial students will be practicing and preparing after school.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.


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