Free speech vs. harmful speech: Teens battle remotely for state Mock Trial championship this weekend

Hundreds of Washington state high school students will compete this week…

Hundreds of Washington state high school students will compete this week as attorneys, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants in a fictitious criminal trial involving vandalism and assault following impassioned speech and political conflict.

The YMCA Mock Trial State Championship will pit 24 high school teams from around the state against each other March 18-20 in the program’s first-ever remote championship competition. The team that wins the state title will be eligible to compete in the virtual 2021 National Mock Trial Championship on May 13-15.

Mock Trial allows students to participate in a true-to-life courtroom drama. This year’s fictional case is based on a real conflict a century ago in Washington state between lumber companies and the Industrial Workers of the World (known as Wobblies).

“This case deals with a more topical subject than I planned when the writing started. That doesn’t surprise me. These tensions have always been simmering in our society,” said Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis, who serves as state Mock Trial chair and who wrote the fictional case in mid-2020 for students to begin working on in the Fall for their district competitions.

For the state finals, student teams will engage in four rounds of remote competition over Thursday and Friday evenings and on Saturday, serving alternately as the prosecution or the defense in the mock trials. Judges and attorneys from across the state volunteer throughout the four days to preside over the trials and rate the teams.

The two teams with the top scores will compete at 10 a.m. Sunday, March 20, for the title of state Mock Trial champion. Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu will preside over the championship trial Sunday at 10 a.m., which will be live-streamed by TVW.

Teams competing in the state Mock Trial championship competition include:

Chelan County

Wenatchee High School 1

Wenatchee High School 2

Clark County

Cedar Tree High School

Hockinson High School

Cascadia Technical Academy

Columbia River High School

Seton Prep High School

Franklin County

Tri Cities Prep High School

Jefferson County

Port Townsend High School

King County

Seattle Preparatory School 1

Seattle Preparatory School 3

Franklin High School

East Lake High School

University Prep

International Community School

King’s High School 1

King’s High School 2

Holy Names High School 1

Holy Names High School 2

Skyline High School

Seattle Academy

Pierce County

SOTA High School

Snohomish County

Archbishop Murphy High School

HM Jackson High School

Mock Trial is part of the YMCA Youth & Government Program, which works to help young people experience democracy in action through both its Mock Trial and Youth Legislature programs. The Youth & Government program is in its 74th year of youth civic education programing. In Mock Trial, high school students take the roles of attorneys and witnesses and prepare the different sides of the case — prosecution and defense — for trial. They compete at district levels and then state before real judges. “Juries” of attorneys rate the teams on their arguments and presentation, while presiding judges rule on motions, objections and ultimately the merits.

Participants develop critical thinking and analytical skills, learn the art of oral advocacy, and gain understanding of law and the judicial branch.

Also supporting the Mock Trial program are the Administrative Office of the Courts, TVW, the Washington Judges Foundation, the Pierce County Minority Bar Association, the Honorable Robert J. Bryan American Inn of Court, and the District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association.

– Washington Courts