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Category Archives: Nevada mock trial competitions

It’s hard to get and keep the attention of a class of fourth graders. Judge Tierra Jones and Judge Eric Johnson kept the attention of two fourth grade classes from Grant M. Bowler Elementary School in Logandale, NV and taught them some valuable lessons on the justice system when they put on a mock trial in District Court. The mini legal eagles got into their roles as judges, jurors, attorneys, witnesses and marshals in a trial to determine if legendary wizard Harry Potter was guilty of the misuse of magic. After hearing the testimony with built in hints on how courts work, the fourth grader found Potter not-guilty. The students peered into the holding cell which gave them a stark view of what happens to those who get caught in the justice system.

Two more classes from Grant M. Bowler will visit the court on Friday, Nov. 16 from 9:30 a.m. to noon.  Judge Kerry Earley in courtroom 12D  and Judge Adrianna Escobar will host the mock trials.

The mock trials are a cooperative effort between the Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court, nonprofit agency Project REAL and the school. In preparation for the student mock trials, Project REAL provides teachers lessons to convey the roles and processes of a criminal trial. The students get an immersive, real-world learning experience, with the benefit of Project Real classroom lessons to set the stage for better understanding. The students embark on their journey through the justice system with the legal terms and other information provided in the classroom sessions.

District Court Judge Doug Herndon envisioned the mock trial program. He wrote the script involving Harry Potter to provide a fun and interesting method for young students to learn about the justice system. The activities promote the importance of education, highlight potential legal careers and demonstrate the outcome of bad choices.

Project REAL, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 2005 by Sam Lionel and Irwin Molasky to meet the challenge of teaching K-12th grade Nevada students the importance of the law. They have taught over 160,000 Nevada students about the importance of the law with the goal of preparing them to be informed, law-abiding and participating citizens through their programs Your Day in Court, Play By the Rules, REAL Drama, and Independence & You. For more information from Project REAL, please contact Program Director Mike Kamer at mkamer@projectrealnv.org, call 702.703.6529, or visit http://projectrealnv.org.

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The state We the People competition commences at West Career and Technical Academy 11945 W. Charleston Blvd. on February 4, with opening ceremonies at 8:45 a.m. and closing ceremonies around 2:30 p.m. Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Elissa Cadish will moderate the event with a keynote speech from former United States Senator Richard Bryan at the closing ceremony. District Court Judge Gloria Sturman will be in the all-star lineup of justice professionals and officials who will judge the competition.

The State Bar of Nevada hosts the competition along with the Clark County School District, Washoe County School District, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Embracing Law Related Education and the justice professionals that make it all work.

The competition will test the students’ skills with simulated congressional hearings on the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Students will appear before mock congressional committees consisting of volunteer judges from the community. As members of a committee, judges will hear oral presentations from groups of students on selected constitutional issues and treated as experts who have been asked to testify before the congressional committee on their particular topic. They will respond to their group’s question with a four minute, prepared presentation, during which they may use notes. They are then required to respond for ten minutes to follow-up questions by the judges. The judges will listen to each group’s presentation, question the group on its topic, and score each group. The class’ total score will consist of the combined scores received.

Judge Cadish has been judging the We the People competition for more than 25 years, after getting involved as a law clerk with Judge Philip Pro. “Once volunteer judges get a taste of it, they’re hooked,” said Judge Cadish who chairs the State Bar’s Law Related Education. “I love it; it’s a great program. We see the future leaders and know there is hope for our future. Once they understand the Constitution and its principles, they are ready to be active and informed citizens; that’s the goal.”

Southern and Northern Nevada schools compete. Any high school that has a teacher who is willing, can participate. Regional competitions are held to qualify for the Feb. 4 competition. The winner of the state competition qualifies to go to national finals in Washington DC, which are held in an actual congressional hearing room.

Judge Sturman has been involved with the program for a number of years dating back to when she was in private practice. When she was president of the State Bar, she judged the national competition. She compared it to a “team sport that offers lessons to be learned from being on a team.”  Judge Sturman said, “The students are electrified by what they learn. They realized the Constitution is a living document that directly affects their lives and that’s exciting to see.”

The judges will score each student group on the basis of six criteria: understanding, constitutional application, reasoning, supporting evidence, responsiveness, and participation. Although students are not told how their hearings are scored, they are given some feedback immediately following their presentation.

A number of schools will participate including: Las Vegas Academy of Arts, Incline High School, Edward C Reed High School, Reno High School, Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, Silverado College Preparatory & Career/Technical High School, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, West Career and Technical Academy, Advanced Technologies Academy, Canyon Springs High School and College of Southern Nevada East High School.

There will be all all-star lineup of justice professionals and officials judging the competition including: Professor Fred Lokken, Judge Elliott Sattler, former Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, Professor Rachel Anderson, Judge Andrew Gordon, Judge Cynthia Leung, Judge Gloria Sturman, Professor Sondra Cosgrove, Judge Scott Pearson, Judge Lynne Simons, Daniel Schiess, Esq., Professor David Tanenhaus, Professor Michael Green, Judge Philip Pro (Ret.), Justice Michael Douglas, Andrew Lingenfelter, Justice Nancy Saitta (Ret.), Mark Simons, Esq., Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, Esq., Magistrate Judge George Foley, Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, Franny Forsman, Esq., Judge Richard Boulware and Judge Mike Nakagawa.

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