Despite nabbing “outstanding attorney” honors during her first match at the district mock trial competition Friday, Sylvania Southview senior Priyanka Pitroda conceded she wasn’t planning to make the law a career.
“I’m generally a soft-spoken person, but I love being able to argue a case, being able to control a witness,” she said during a break.
“That is a lot of fun,” her teammate, Richa Agarwal interjected.
Both girls have been part of Southview’s mock trial team for three years. They may not want to be lawyers, but they’ve learned a lot, they said.
“It’s helped me improve my speaking skills and my confidence in general,” Priyanka said.
About 120 high school students from eight schools — Archbold, Central Catholic, Edon, St. Francis de Sales, St. John’s Jesuit, St. Ursula Academy, Southview, and Wauseon — were at Toledo Municipal Court for the day, dressed in suits and ready to argue the merits of a motion to suppress a confession the defense claimed was coerced from a 15-year-old.
While the arguments they made were important, the point was not for either side to “win” the case but simply to present it as capably and professionally as possible.
“It’s a very realistic experience,” said Milton Pommeranz, a spokesman for the Toledo Bar Association, which coordinates the annual competition.
The teenaged participants, he said, are at times better prepared than real lawyers. “Of course, you don’t normally prepare for four months for a real hearing,” he said.
The students, acting as defense and prosecuting attorneys and as witnesses who take the stand, argue the case in front of a three-judge panel.
Derrick Kamp, a junior at Wauseon, said his team began preparing in October.
As part of their research, they met with Fulton County Western District Court Judge Jeffrey Robinson, who gave them some helpful advice.
It was Derrick’s first mock trial experience, and he admitted it was “intimidating” being in a real courtroom before a three-judge panel, which in his case included just-retired Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Jensen.
“I’m thinking about medical [school], but law would be a close second,” Derrick said.
Judge Jensen, who takes the bench at the 6th District Court of Appeals on Feb. 11, complimented the teams for their preparation and presentations.
He gave them some tips as well.
“It’s hard to tell you to be natural,” the judge said to the obviously nervous students. “But you should try to ask questions just as you would to a friend.”
Advancing to the regional mock trial competition Feb. 22 are teams from St. John’s, St. Ursula, and Sylvania Southview. The event is sponsored statewide by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.