By Kody Klein AnnArbor.com Intern Reporter
Three mock trial teams from Community High School and Ypsilanti High School are heading to Lansing on Saturday to compete in the state finals for Michigan Center for Civic Education's high school mock trial tournament.
The CHS team was allowed to practice at Washtenaw County Trial Court in Judge Archie Brown's courtroom in preparation for state finals.
Kody Klein I AnnArbor.com The teams are advancing after their success at the Ann Arbor regional tournament on March 2, where 13 teams competed. The CHS A-team placed first and the Ypsilanti A and B teams placed third and second, respectively. At finals, they will face seven other teams that advanced from the regional tournaments in Grand Rapids and Pontiac.
"We’ve been doing practices nonstop since the regional tournament," said Loretta Tracy, executive director of University of Michigan's student-led Future Advocates In Training, which provides student coaches to the Ypsilanti teams. "Everybody’s working really hard."
Mock trial is a multidisciplinary activity, incorporating elements of law with improvisatory theater. Each year, MICIVIC releases a new case that teams must study and act out. Students exercise legal procedure as they assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses, conducting a realistic trial with one team acting as defense and one acting as prosecution.
"I’m a lawyer for both sides so I have to argue with myself all of the time," said Julie Karr, a senior at CHS.
This year's trial is a defamation of character lawsuit wherein a high school student sues a rival school for publicly accusing the student of cheating during a mock trial competition.
Despite that the case is the same for each trial, each team approaches it differently.
"Every time you see a trial, it’s a new thing," said Chloe Root, who teaches at CHS and coaches the mock trial team. "They’re trying new things every time to try to throw the other team off their game."
Of the 10 teams competing at state, only one will proceed to the national tournament on May 9 in Indianapolis. CHS teams have won six times since 1995, including the past three years.
"It’s a little bittersweet that it’s my last tournament," said Karr, who has been participating in mock trial since her freshman year.
Root said she's excited for her team to compete against the Ypsilanti teams.
"They’re both really good," she said. "They’ve got a lot of acting stuff down in a way that a lot of teams don’t."
Tracy said FAIT has supported the Ypsilanti teams for four years, during which time one team has made it to the state finals.
"I think we’re all really excited," she said. "It’s good to know that all of the kids made it."
FAIT organizes U-M law students to coach the Ypsilanti teams, helps fund the teams, and even runs a clothing drive at U-M to help provide the students with professional clothing.
"We’re trying to attract kids who might not have thought of mock trial as an activity that they would be able to participate in," Tracy said.