On November 26th, for the first time ever, Valley Torah High School – Boys Campus joined the 2015-16 season of Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Los Angeles County 38th Annual Mock Trial Competition. Participation was complicated by the chagim at the start of the year and potential lawyer coaches fell through. Regardless, the boy’s school held tryouts with only three weeks left to the first competition and 14 students made the team.
General Studies Principal Dr. Eliezer Jones and English teacher, Mr. Schaefer, stepped up to coach the students which brought enthusiasm but neither of them had previous law experience. Despite this, the students willingly met every breakfast, every lunch and after school for two weeks and then participated in their first case of Mock Trial competition.
Jones explained the outcome, “We did not win the case, but the judge told us afterwards that she could not tell we were new to Mock Trial. As we left the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse that night, our heads were held high, but there was no time to relax and appreciate the accomplishment. We had our second round in one week and we had work to do!”
Student lawyers wrote closing arguments in the school corridors and witnesses could be heard practicing their stories on the stairwell. Round two was no picnic. Valley Torah Boys were now the defense and were up against another experienced team with a fastidious judge. Jones talked about the experience, “Students presented their arguments, motions, cross-examinations, rebuttals and objections. In fact, the team was so passionate that we even accidently objected to ourselves once or twice! However, in the end, I am happy to say that the client we defended had all the charges dropped and we won the case. Not only did we win it, we scored 84 more points than we did in the first round case.”
Schaefer added, “The students critically analyzed the case and developed sharply focused questions for the witnesses which speaks to the skills cultivated from their in-depth Gemara classes. Also, to see the way the lawyers and witnesses were able to think on their feet, spoke to our improvisational arts program that many on the team have been a part of.”
Maybe next year will see the Valley Torah Boys at the National Mock Trials in Boise, Idaho.