The Vermont Bar Association was pleased to collaborate with the Unites States District Court for the District of Vermont, the Snelling Center for Government, and Vermont Law School to organize the First Annual Statewide High School Mock Trial Program this year. United States District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford contacted high schools throughout the state last Fall to gauge interest in the program, and three high schools (Brattleboro Union High School, Rutland High School and Southwestern Vermont Technical Development Center in Bennington) responded by fielding teams of students who spent the Spring preparing for the state-wide competition held last Saturday at the Vermont Law School.
VBA Member Lawyer volunteers worked with the students and teacher coaches at each of the high schools. James Valente from Costello, Valente & Gentry, PC in Brattleboro advised the Brattleboro Union High School Team, Thomas Bixby from the Law Offices of Thomas C. Bixby, LLC in Rutland advised the Rutland High School Team and Orland Campbell, retired after many years in private practice in Manchester, advised the Southwestern Vermont Technical Development Center Team in Bennington.
Judges Crawford, Christina Reiss, Cortland Corsones and Mary Miles Teachout judged the competition, consisting of three rounds of a mock murder trial, pitting prosecution teams against defense teams from all three schools in the moot courtroom at Vermont Law School. VLS third-year student Jessica Bullock organized a team of law student volunteers who administered the event. Rutland High School was judged the best overall and best prosecution team, Brattleboro High School was judged the best defense team, and the best prosecution witness was from Southwestern Vermont Tech. All involved were very complimentary of the skill and professionalism that the teams exhibited, and grateful for the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of criminal law and courtroom procedures.
Other objectives of the competition included furthering students’ understanding of the law and legal system, improving proficiency in speaking and reasoning skills, and increasing students’ appreciation for law-related careers. Judge Crawford is already looking forward to next year’s competition, ideally involving more schools. Watch for more details from the VBA in the Fall, when we gear up for Vermont’s Second Annual Statewide High School Mock Trial Program!