The judge arranged her papers from atop the bench at the front of the room, and the court leaned forward in anticipation. When she delivered the final verdict, half the people in the courtroom released a collective sigh of relief.
Richard Montgomery’s Mock Trial team had just won the county championships.
On Thursday, March 13, in a courtroom at the Montgomery County Circuit Court, RM’s Mock Trial team faced last year’s county champions Winston Churchill High School for the Mock Trial County Championships. For nearly three hours, RM would battle it out against Churchill, and in the end, RM would come out on top.
The case that the two teams debated was a civil dispute that revolved around distracted driving. The two parties in dispute were in a car crash, and the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was texting while driving, while the defendant alleged that the plaintiff drove recklessly. Against Churchill, RM represented the defense.
Since receiving the case in November 2017, RM’s Mock Trial team had spent tireless months planning, debating, and preparing their ideas. They had competed in seven trials on the road to county championships, and had won every single one. Against Churchill, all of that hard work and preparation finally culminated in RM being crowned county champions.
“We’ve put in a lot of preparation this year,” said junior witness Layna Lu. “We meet every Friday, we even have Skype calls outside [of school], and I know everyone always practices so hard and we stay after school so long for each meeting and trial, so I think our hard work has really paid off.”
Hours spent together preparing and at the trials has created a unique camaraderie within the team.
“There’s really a big team spirit,” said sophomore alternate Elizabeth Haupt. “Especially in the trial; I think that’s when it comes out most. Because that’s where you’re conferring with each other, sending little notes back and forth, and exchanging looks. I think it’s a really big part of how we exist as a sort of family.”
Despite all of that preparation, though, the team was still nervous heading into the match. Mock Trial involves a mixture of preparation, improvisation, substance, and style, so before the match there was no telling how it would go.
“Our team is well-prepared—we’ve gone over the scripts, we have a really foolproof line of questioning, and we also play by the rules very tightly,” said sophomore alternate Kaylen Pak, a few hours before the match. “But Churchill is very strong in their stylistic elements. Although both sides have a lot of passion, I feel like Churchill’s shows stylistically, while ours shows more substantively.”
Regardless of any nerves, though, the team was confident in their ability to win. The witnesses and attorneys on the defense team had years of experience and were ready to go up against Churchill.
“Overall, I’m just excited,” said senior attorney Ilana Pelzman-Kern, before the match. “Either way, it’s my third year of being an attorney, and I’m just excited to be able to compete. I don’t want to say that I’m worried, because I don’t think we’ll lose—there’s just the general antsiness that comes from competition. But overall, I’m excited.”
Many RM students not on the Mock Trial team had come out to support their friends, and the seats of the spectator area in the courtroom were filled. Once the final verdict on the case was announced, smiles spread across the faces of the RM supporters.
“I was so relieved,” admitted Lu. “Me, Heather and Gillian—the other witnesses from RM—were all holding hands before the judge announced the verdict, and when she did there was this whole breath of relief on our side. Everyone was clapping, and it was just a really great moment.”
Hong echoed Lu’s statements. “It felt great knowing that we had won,” he said. “We put so much time into mock trial, carefully crafting our theory of the case and our directs, crosses, opening, and closing, and it was great to see our hard work pay off.”
On Tuesday, RM’s Mock Trial team represented Montgomery County and defeated Urbana High School to snag the circuit title.
Featured photo courtesy of Ilana Pelzman-Kern.