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 Mock Trial Competition Offers Civic Learning

High school students can get a unique educational experience through the 2019 San Diego County High School Mock Trial Competition that encourages and builds teamwork, goal setting, civic participation, and public speaking skills.

The competition places teams of eight to 25 high school students in a real courtroom setting where they assume the roles of lawyers, witnesses, clerks, and bailiffs handling a hypothetical case.

Any teachers interested in the February 2019 competition must attend one of two orientation meetings, which will be Sept. 20 and 25 at the San Diego County Office of Education main campus.

"The importance of civic education has never been more apparent than now, and research shows that access to and participation in quality simulations of democratic processes is an effective way of developing civic participation skills for students," said Matthew Hayes, history-social science coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education.

The competition includes four rounds followed by a championship round between the two top-scoring teams.

Each team receives the assistance of one or two attorney coaches. Local attorneys volunteer to coach teams from October through the competition rounds in February. Attorneys from the community also volunteer to score the performance of the students during the competition. Active and retired state and federal judicial officers preside over each trial in the competition.

"Participating students actively experience the excitement of working in teams, exchanging ideas, setting goals, and examining legal issues while interacting with positive role models and practicing attorneys from their communities," said Judge Laura J. Birkmeyer and Professor Lizzette Herrera Castellanos, co-chairs of the San Diego County High School Mock Trial Committee. "By studying the case and preparing strategies and arguments for trial or preparing to play the role of witnesses, students also develop public speaking and presentation skills, analytic ability, and team cooperation."

The different rounds of the competition will take place Feb. 6, 13, 20, and 23. The winning team will go on to the state competition March 22-24 in Sacramento.

The deadline to register is Oct. 12. There is a $375 fee per team due by Nov. 30. Scholarship applications and more information are available through the San Diego County High School Mock Trial Competition website. Scholarship applications are due by Nov. 16.