By GLENN BATTISHILL/The Delaware Gazette
On Friday, students from several local high schools gathered at the Hayes Building in Delaware to put their legal skills to the test in the 2023 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition.
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley serves as the local organizer of the competition, which returned to Delaware County courtrooms this year after being held virtually since the start of the pandemic. The competition has students act as attorneys and witnesses in a case, and teams are scored based on how they present evidence, cross examine witnesses, and raise objections to their opponents.
Gormley said he was happy the competition was able return to an in-person format.
“I’m thrilled that we’re able to do it in-person again for the first time in three years,” he said. “I think it’s such a great experience for students, but it’s awfully hard to do something like this on Zoom and have the same feeling that you have when you are in the same room as the team you’re competing against.”
Gormley said the teams had to argue either side of a fictional case involving whether or not a fictional student was in police custody when they made incriminating statements about a school prank and, if so, when would they have required their Miranda rights be read to them.
Gormley said the case is well-suited to the competition.
“I know the folks who put together the issue every year come up with fact patterns that are balanced so there are good arguments that both sides can make in a case like this,” Gormley said. “That helps to make it interesting for everybody who competes. It’s good training for lawyers, who need to be able to make arguments regardless of what kind of client you might be representing. The rules of evidence are nearly identical to the rules that apply in a normal courtroom.”
Gormley said the competition also has benefits for students who aren’t interested in pursing a law career.
“It helps them develop more confidence, I hope, which is so important no matter what they end up doing,” he said. “We all need to be able to think on our feet and express ourselves effectively. It teaches young people to work with colleagues. I’m just excited that folks who are interested in the law and social issues have an opportunity to exercise that interest in a competition.”
Delaware Hayes High School senior Meg Wolf was an attorney in the team’s afternoon case. It wasn’t her first time competing in the mock trial competition.
“I started freshman year because I really didn’t have any one ‘thing’ I did at Hayes and wanted to make some friends,” Wolf said. “I absolutely loved mock trial as more of a creative outlet for me and something that pushes me way out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed working with the team and competing the most because nothing really matches that feeling of success when you actually are doing it live.”
Wolf said she was thrilled the competition was held once again in an actual courtroom.
“Over Zoom it’s so hard to go full out and really argue your case,” she said. “The last in-person (competition) was my freshman year. The improvement for both myself and the team since that point was huge.”
Wolf earned an “Outstanding Attorney” award, and Hayes sophomore Jules West was recognized as an “Outstanding Witness.”
Gormley reported Friday afternoon that teams from Hilliard Davidson High School, Olentangy High School, and Westerville North High School had won both sides of their cases and have advanced to the regional mock trial competition to be held next month. Hayes lost its morning case but won its afternoon case. The state finals will be held March 9-11 in Columbus.