North Point High School’s mock trial team argued its way to the semi-finals with no objections. Starting in January, the 11-member team faced off against teams from other Southern Maryland schools showing cause for advancing through the ranks.
In the playoffs, North Point won against teams from Leonardtown High School and Duval High School. In March, it faced off against Renaissance Classic Tutorial, a Prince George’s County homeschool cooperative, in the semis. The competition was fierce and the teams tied with the tie-breaking point going to Renaissance.
“Our team did fantastic,” said Anna Newton, North Point social studies teacher and the team’s coach. “It was by far the best performance I have seen them do. They made me even more proud than I already was to be their coach, and it has been a pleasure to coach these fine individuals.”
This year marks the 34th annual Maryland State Bar Association’s mock trial competition which strives to bring about an understanding of the rule of law, court procedures and the legal system along with bettering reading, writing and listening skills. The program also fosters communication and cooperation between the school system, the community and legal system, according to the state bar association’s website.
This year’s case was brought against the fictional Clearwater Springs City Public Schools Superintendent Sam S. Saratoga. Saratoga is criminally charged with reckless endangerment for knowingly and willingly replacing bottled water in Clearwater Elementary with alleged lead-laced water from aging pipes. The state alleges this switch resulted in the medical issues of a student, Perrier Pamukkale. Saratoga was further charged with misconduct in office, a civil offense.
At the school level, mock trial team members are given roles in the case — either prosecution or defense, attorneys or witnesses. In a package of materials, all the pertinent details, including background information, personal emails and other character-building notes, are included to flesh out the experience. After scrimmages against classmates, the team faces off with those from other schools. Charles County is in Circuit 7 which includes 32 teams from Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties. It’s one of the biggest districts in the state, Newton said.
The students who made up North Point’s team included seniors Brianna Baker, Luciano Benjamin, Marissa Hapner and Kirti Patel, juniors Kennedy Harris, Kyle Smith and Nicki Patel, sophomores Arpyle Bennett and Alexis Lepe, and freshmen Jamarr Joshua Johnson and Caitlyn Ulmer.
Kirti Patel has been a part of mock trial for four years. “I wanted to experience what happens in a courtroom. [Mock trial] was a good way to go about it. I’ve learned a lot,” she said. Like Patel, Hapner joined the team as a freshman. “I ended up really liking it, so I stayed four years,” she said. Baker, who is in her second year on the team, is interested in pursuing law as a career. “I aspire to become an attorney, and I wanted to start building skills I will need,” she said.
Even those without an interest in working in the law field could benefit from being part of the team, Baker argued. “The field of law affects everyone,” she said. “Whether you’re pursuing a law career or not.”