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DHS brings back Mock Trial Club, prepares for competition

Mock Trial Club poses for a picture outside N-4.
Mock Trial Club poses for a picture outside N-4.

By Meghan Bobrowsky,                                                                                                                                                                                               BlueDevilHUB.com Multimedia and Social Media Editor-in-Chief–

A group of five teenagers sat on the cold carpet on a Thursday in N-4 taking turns standing up and describing four positive characteristics about themselves. Applause enveloped the room after each student shyly stated what they believed to be their best traits.

The new-and-improved Mock Trial Club was hosting their weekly meeting, which has since changed dates to Monday 5:30-7:00 p.m. and Friday 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Junior Chase Furman started the club this year in new history teacher Dianna Huculak’s room after an unsuccessful search last year for a club adviser. The club president wanted to create an outlet for students interested in law, like himself.

“I saw something about [mock trial] online and I was like I should start this. It’d be a great way to give back to the community. If I’m interested in it, other people have to be, right?” Furman said.

And other students were. One of these students was junior Luisa Chen.

Another interested student was sophomore Anna Messisco, who attended the first meeting and every meeting after that. Since then, she has become the club’s vice president. Furman explained that the remaining tasks are split among the group members instead of being delegated to a secretary or treasurer.

The club currently has 10 members, barely surpassing the minimum eight students needed to participate in competitions. The group has been practicing endlessly for their first competition on Feb. 1, which will mirror a real court case. In order to prepare, the club drew upon the assistance of UC Davis mentor Tyler Hrobuchak and criminal defense attorney Daniel Olmos.

Hrobuchak is a senior, who is majoring in sociology and political science, and Vice President of the UCD Mock Trial team, which went to the national championships last year. After his first meeting with the high schoolers, Hrobuchak was keen to set goals for the team.

“We’re going to States, absolutely. We’re actually in the very fortunate position because other high school teams in order to get to States have to beat like 20 other schools. But because of our geographical location, we only have one other school to compete with.”

Determined to beat that school, River City in West Sacramento, the team has been practicing public speaking, learning courtroom terminology and writing direct and cross-examinations. At the Thursday meeting, Hrobuchak explained that judges look for a theme and gave a few examples, some more famous than others:

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” from the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson.

“Follow the money,” from the Watergate scandal.

Olmos then taught the teenagers the first thing he learned in law school: “IRAC,” which stands for Issue, Rule, Argument, Conclusion. With this knowledge of how to structure legal analysis, the students set out to write their own direct examinations, a homework assignment from Hrobuchak.

Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel Olmos teaches the team “IRAC,” a legal analysis method.
Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel Olmos teaches the team “IRAC,” a legal analysis method.

Huculak acknowledges that being a part of Mock Trial Club is time-consuming, but nonetheless, encourages all grade levels to try out the team.

“[It’s] something that could be really valuable in getting some career experience. A lot of people say they want to be attorneys and then don’t really have a great idea how it works.”

Hrobuchak, whose dream is to be a criminal defense attorney, spends about 20 hours a week working with his Mock Trial team but notes that high school mock trial is less intense and requires less strenuous work.screenshot-2017-01-05-22-35-37

“College mock trial is about three times as long, the case packet, and we have the whole federal rules of everything. There are 1200 rules. In [high school], they have 18, which is nice.”

However, Hrobuchak admits there is a time crunch for high school mock trial. Instead of having 25 minutes to direct three witnesses, which is the case in college, the team only has 14 minutes to direct four witnesses.

Furman is ready for the challenge and thankful to be learning life skills such as debate, persuasive writing, and public speaking.

“[Those are] huge things that people need to know how to do later in life, and those things are really hard to learn in a classroom out of textbook because you don’t get to practice it very much, and [mock trial] combines all of them.”

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