Kalamazoo Central Mock Trial Team qualifies for State Competition

March 12th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

Kalamazoo Central High School’s mock trial team placed second on Saturday at a regional competition in Grand Rapids, making it one of 10 teams to compete in the state tournament on March 24.

Central’s mock trial team has won 17 state titles since the team’s formation in 1986. They were state champions in 2009, won the national championship in 1996 and placed second in the nation for three consecutive years in 2006-08.

This year’s team members are seniors Sharnjit Sohi and Keeley Davenport, juniors Jane Fisher and Sabrina Hirsch, sophomores Amanda Sidwell and Olivia Hodge, and freshmen Isaac Bertman, Sarah Ghazal and Katherine McKibban.

Lead coach is Francis Bilancio. He is assisted by attorneys Kurt McCamman and James L. Liggins Jr. of Miller Canfield, Paddock, & Stone; Randall Levine of Levine and Levine, and Becket J. Jones of Hills Law Office.

The Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament is organized and conducted by the Michigan Center for Civic Education. The MCCE designed the program to reenact much of what might take place in trial courts. High school students take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses and compete against other schools in real courtrooms in front of real judges and lawyers. But while the students take on roles, there is no set script. As in a debate, participants must adjust to the strategies employed by the opposing side.

The state champions will compete in the National Mock Trial Championship in Albuquerque, N.M. from May 10-13.

Published:Kalamazoo News, March 12, 2012

By : Julie Mack


Mock trial teams learn ‘it’s not like TV’

February 20th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

Ypsilanti High School senior Lucy Smith isn’t sure she’s the type to become an attorney.

”I’m not someone who likes to argue,” said Smith, the daughter and granddaughter of attorneys. ”I’d rather compromise. Getting up there and saying, `I’m right and you’re wrong…” that ‘s something I have a hard time doing.”

But whatever career path she takes at the University of Michigan next fall, Smith said she will always cherish her experience.

Smith was one of the Ypsilanti High School students who met weekly with volunteers from the University of Michigan Law School to learn what goes on in the courtroom.

The YHS Mock Trial Teams recently held a scrimmage in the Michigan Law School’s historic Moot Court Room. Two teams from Ypsilanti High competed against each other in preparation for the Regional Mock Trial competition on March 10.

In another room, a third team of YHS students competed against a team of law student volunteers.

U-M Law student Jeff Bradford is the executive chair of Future Advocates in Training (FAIT), a student volunteer organization based out of the University of Michigan Law School. FAIT partners with YHS to sponsor and coach the mock trial team.

”I started volunteering to coach Mock Trial as a 1L student last year,” said Bradford. ”At first it was just about finding an escape from the law library. Even though 1L year found me swimming in case law and statutes, I quickly became hooked. Our team is amazing. I am consistently impressed with the way that our team members juggle sports, dance, clubs, homework, and still manage to perform brilliantly at practice and competition. Their energy and dedication keep me coming back each week.”

Emeka Okafor, 16, of Ypsilanti Township, attends the Early College Alliance at Eastern Michigan University, and also enjoys his experience with Mock Trial.

”I like the interaction,” he said. ”We’re all just like one big family, and the fact that we get to learn a lot about law and all the rules about it and actually get to perform in a mock trial is really entertaining. Being able to act out the things you see in Law & Order and all those shows is really fun.”

But it’s not the same as TV, he’s learned.

”I’ve seen people on TV who stand up and say,`Objection!’ without clarifying it,” said Okafor, who wants to attend Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard, and possibly become a patent attorney one day. ”It seems like most of the criminals on TV are being badgered, and they can do what they want. We have to abide by personal space issues with them and can’t just totally crush them on the stands.”

From her spot in the jury box where she critiqued the high school students’ performance at the bench, Katherine Meister noted how hard the younger students work.

”It’s good to see the kids are super motivated,” said Meister, who is in her first year at Michigan Law.

First year Michigan Law student Kelly O’Donnell is also among the coaching staff of Michigan Law students who mentor the younger students.

O’Donnell hasn’t had a class yet in rules of evidence, which is considered to be among the toughest classes.

”So (the high school kids) teach me as much as I teach them,” she said.

Published: Washtenaw County Legal News, Mon, Feb 20, 2012

By Jo Mathis, Legal News


State Bar of Michigan Launches New Law Day Contest

January 25th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

The State Bar of Michigan is starting a new Law Day tradition in 2012 by launching a statewide contest to highlight the theme “Michigan: No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” utilizing SBM’s Michigan Legal Milestones.

The Michigan Legal Milestones is a 25-year-old State Bar program that commemorates important jurists and court cases that have contributed to our rich legal history. Bronze plaques detailing the background and importance of each case, event, or personality have been placed throughout the state. There are 36 milestones to date.

To participate, contestants should familiarize themselves with the milestones and tie those that are appropriate into the 2012 Law Day theme in a creative project. Examples of acceptable projects include dramatic or musical plays, debates, video game designs, essays, podcasts, commentaries, re-enactments, mock trials, short documentaries, and more.

“The idea behind this unique contest is to promote greater public understanding of the law and to create more partnership opportunities for lawyers and the community at large,” SBM President Julie Fershtman said. “Lawyers and local bar associations can get started by collaborating with schools, community adult or youth groups, colleges, universities, and law schools.”

Winning projects will be those that most effectively illuminate or dramatize the significance of the Michigan Legal Milestone and its relationship to the role of the courts and /or an understanding of the role of the judiciary in Michigan’s constitutional democracy. Electronic submissions are highly encouraged.

Cash prizes will be awarded. The top prize is $1,000 (one winner); second prize is $750 (two winners) and third prize is $500 (up to 3 will be awarded). All winning submissions will be eligible for statewide recognition as a Michigan Model Law Day project as well as for entry into the National American Bar Association Law Day awards competition. Michigan’s 2012 Law Day theme closely parallels the American Bar Association’s. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

The contest is overseen by a subcommittee of the State Bar Law-Related Education and Public Outreach Committee, chaired by Margaret Krasnoff and Jeff Paulsen. Bart O’Neill and Margaret Krasnoff head the Law Day subcommittee.

The Law Day contest entry deadline is 5 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2012. For more details about the contest rules and resources visit SBM Law Day or e-mail lawday@mail.michbar.org. Visit Michigan Legal Milestones for a complete list of milestones.

Questions can be directed to SBM Media and Public Relations Manager Naseem Stecker at (517) 367-6428 or nstecker@mail.michbar.org.


Waterford students preparing for Mock Trial Tournament

January 19th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

The setup: A famous musician is found dead at his piano, his son found nearby washing himself in the pool. A bandmate who walks in on this macabre scene is charged with murdering the musician. These are the juicy details Michigan high school students are considering as they prepare for the annual Mock Trial Tournament coming up March 10.

Seven Waterford high school students — Andrea Sanchez, Jenna Blankenship, Cory Marshall, Cody McKenzie, Autumn Gairaud, Katie Geiger and Alex Hawkins — have entered for the competition, sponsored by Lansing-based Michigan Center for Civic Education, for the first time.

Their instructor is 51st District Court Judge Jodi Debbrecht, who, while Magistrate and Court Administrator in Berkley, established the same program at Berkley High School.

Since last October, the students have been coming to work with Debbrecht at the court four days a week after school. The students were selected from all three of the district’s high schools — Kettering, Mott and Durant.

“A large majority of the work and preparation, however, is done by the students at home,” said Debbrecht. “In that, they are tremendously dedicated!”

The students learn to prepare opening and closing statements, use rules of evidence, cross-exam witnesses and think on their feet.

“The competition relies upon the willingness of lawyers, judges, police officers, elected officials, school administrators and parents to be successful,” said Debbrecht.

The students will have their first practice competition during the week of Feb. 13. The formal competition is March 10 at the 6th Circuit Court Building in Pontiac

The students’ case is riddled with twists and involves three witnesses for both the prosecution and defense.

“What many litigators took years to learn, these bright students are learning in just a few months,” said Debbrecht.

By CAROL HOPKINS, The Oakland Press


East Grand Rapids Takes First Place

January 17th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

2012 First Place Michigan We the People Champions-East Grand Rapids High School

East Grand Rapids High School, led by teacher Janice Yates, took first place at the We the People State Finals held January 6 at the Michigan Capitol Complex in Lansing. Howell High School finished second and Marquette High School finished third. East Kentwood High School and Coldwater High School took Honorable Mention.

Every year, volunteers dedicate their time to evaluate the students’ performance during the simulated congressional hearings. One judge said, “To see and interact with all those eager, well-prepared students and their teachers and parents and friends is just a gift.” The event would not have been possible without the over fifty volunteers who spent the day with the students.

With their first-place finish, East Grand Rapids qualifies to compete against other states in the 25th Anniversary We the People National finals, held in Washington, D.C., and at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 28-30.

Other participating schools included Bethany Christian School, Troy; Cesar Chavez Academy High School, Detroit; Hudsonville High School; Marion High School, Bloomfield Hills; The Potter’s House, Grand Rapids; and Richmond High School.


Local Lawmaker Congratulates Students on Statewide Achievement

January 17th, 2012 by MCCE Admin

A group of Howell High School students recently placed second in the state in the “We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution” competition. It brought high school students from all over Michigan to the Capitol earlier this month to learn about the Constitution and being involved in government.

wtp howellState Representative Cindy Denby of Handy Township has served as a judge of the statewide competition for several years. The Republican lawmaker says she is always impressed by the vast amount of knowledge students bring to the table and has no doubt that many future government leaders were part of the exciting competition and she’s anxious to see what they achieve in the future. The Howell High School team was comprised of 33 students and was led by their Teacher Mark Oglesby.


Mock Trial Clinic Held on November 16 at Cooley Law School

November 16th, 2011 by MCCE Admin

Dozens of high school students and a few of their teachers filed into Cooley Law Schoolclassrooms at the Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor campuses inmid-November for an all-day mock trial clinic.

By Paul Janczewski
Legal News

Macomb-Daily-Mock-Trial-Clinic-1

Officials from the Michigan Center for Civic Education gathered in a classroom at the Auburn campus of Cooley Law School for a clinic that prepared high school studens and teachers for the Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament. Pictured are (from left): MCCE Executive Director Linda Start; MCCE Board of Directors President Don Fulkerson; and Jeff May, MCCE director of the high school tournament.

The event was put on by the Michigan Center for Civic Education, which conducts the MCCE’s annual Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament.

But beneath the smiles and anticipation of the students, and MCCE officials who greeted them, is a cloud of financial uncertainty.

In addition to the mock trial tournament, the MCCE puts on a number of programs geared to advancing its mission “to promote and support the development of engaged responsible citizens through law-related and civic education.”

But like many companies, organizations and government agencies, money to run, fund and advance those places is in short supply because of the weakened economy, especially in Michigan. The sad truth is, many MCCE programs are in jeopardy of ending because the nonprofit agency has lost all of its federal funding.

“It’s a difficult time for us right now,” said Don Fulkerson, president of the MCCE Board of Directors. “So we’re looking for people who believe in law-related and civic education to support us and help us in our goals. Unfortunately, we’re living in a time in this country where civic and law-related education is being more and more de-emphasized.”

He said educators and politicians, “with some justification,” have focused their concernson math, science and competing in a global economy.

“And those are important things,” he added. “But we must maintain our emphasis also on how each citizen can understand our role in democracy and become a responsible and informed participant in our system,” Fulkerson said.

With the increase of polarization of the system, apathy, and the lack of civility, Fulkerson believes, now more than ever, “we have an urgent need to renew acommitment for civic and law-related education.”

“That’s what we’re all about, and that’s what we’re working for,” he said.

Linda Start, the executive director of the MCCE, said the organization began in 1982 with five co-sponsors – the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan State University’s College of Education, Oakland County schools, and the Michigan State Police – and were joined by the Michigan Attorney General and
the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Start said those factions realized that “civic education and educating the youth about the law was too much for just the educators or the legal profession, that everybody needed to work collaboratively.”

“Over the last 30 years, we have done hundreds of programs, depending on what students and teachers need, what funding is available, and what the research says we should be offering,” Start said.

And one program that has been conducted every year is the mock trial tournament.

Start has been with MCCE nearly from the beginning. She has seen funding come and go several times in the past due to economic downturns.

“We’ve ridden out difficulties in the past,” she said. “It is by no means the end (of MCCE). But we’re hoping for new supporters.”

Although the mock trial tournament is not in dire financial need now – registration fees from teams, and financial assistance from the State Bar of Michigan, the Oakland County Bar Foundation and several others keep it afloat – Fulkerson said other program are being suspended until funding can be found. For now, the programs being halted include “We the People,” a constitutional law program; “Project Citizen,” where middle school students are asked to identify and research a problem in their town or school and develop a plan to improve or correct it; and the “Civitas Program,” which the MCCE partners with emerging democracies in Slovakia, the Czech Republic or the Dominican Republic to develop ways to teach their young people how to become good citizens.

MCCE also has programs and clinics with teachers, and those are also being halted. Fulkerson said the MCCE lost more than $300,00 in federal funding, and along with the loss of programs, has had to let staff go.

The MCCE has been able to continue on a skeleton basis from grants, corporate, foundation, individual and organizational donations, Fulkerson said. And the MCCE has updated its website to generate interest. But funding remains “a very critical issue,” he said.

“We’re looking for funding from sources that share our commitment, and believe in the importance of civic and law related education so students develop an appreciation, respect and inspiration for law and government,” said Fulkerson.

But on this day, the main task of MCCE officials was to conduct the mock trial clinic.Although it was being held live at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus, high school teams that were located closer to campuses in Grand Rapids, Lansing or Ann Arbor went there to view live video of the clinic.

Jeffrey May, MCCE’s director of the Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament, is a recent graduate of Cooley. The tournament pits teams of students against each other in a trial; students take on the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors and witnesses to show them what takes place in a real court. Real judges and lawyers act as judges and advisers to the students, May said.

Each team is given a set of facts, materials and other information about a hypothetical case and must argue for a particular side. Trial strategies must be adjusted on the fly as each teams presents their own case.

Regional competitions are held March 10 in Pontiac and Grand Rapids, and the top 10 teams compete in the state finals March 24 in Lansing. The state champions are eligible to compete in the National Mock Trial Championship May 1Q-13in Albuquerque, N.M.

Deadline to register for the Michigan tournament is Jan. 12. May said the mock trial clinic for students and coaches is to “provide them with the basics of how a trial works, what to expect as you go through the trial, and a basic foundational understanding how to present portions of a tria1.”

The all-day agenda featured real attorneys and prosecutors, as well as Cooley students who have participated in law school mock competitions presenting ideas and basic instruction in theme, theory and analysis of a case, how to present opening statements and closing arguments, handling of evidence and exhibits, courtroom do’s
and don’ts, and a question and answer period for teachers and team coaches, and other facets of a trial.

“The idea is to give them a foundational knowledge of what they need to practice over the next three months to get ready for this trial in March,” May said.

May said about 160 students are involved in the clinic, a significant jump from last year’s number, and his hope is to keep increasing the number of teams participating in the tournament, especially those from the northern section of Michigan. Part of the problem no teams from the north enter is due to advertising, and resources. But still, he
expects to see about 60 teams competing in this tournament, and would like to see a partnership build around Cooley, since its campuses and where regional tournaments are held is “a natural fit.”

Dean John Nussbaumer of the Cooley Auburn Hills campus said his school wants to aid any endeavor that benefits civic and law-related education.

“We’re hosting this training event to help MCCE continue this program, despite the funding cuts they have experienced in recent years,” Nussbaumer said. “And because we believe, as they do, that we need to do more to promote and support the development of engaged responsible citizens.”

“The benefit for these students is that they get to experience first-hand what lawyers do, and they learn about the important role that lawyers play in defending our freedoms and preserving our liberties,” Nussbaumer said.

May agreed, saying anything that gives students an understanding of the justice system and how it works is a good thing.

“But more important than that is a team building opportunity,” May said. “This is an opportunity to look at a problem, analyze it, come up with solutions and learn how to give a persuasive argument. Public speaking is involved, interaction with others, and the life skills they’ll able to use for years.”

All the MCCAofficials said the goal is not to find more lawyers, although many do enter the legal profession, but to make better citizens.

“This is something I’m passionate about,” May said.

The passion extends to teachers and students. Peter Palen, who teaches social studies for Grosse Pointe Public Schools, said the mock trial is important because it “provides an opportunity for our students to have an authentic learning experience related to the social studies curriculum.”

He said the goal is not to find more lawyers but to “expose students to the skills that they need to be an effective communicator and citizen.”

Ellie Cak, 15, one of his students, said she has an interest in law and this gives her a chance to “see how it works and get a feel for what it’s like in the courtroom.” Frank Cusumano, another student who wants to enter the legal profession, said this will give him “a better understanding on how the legal system works and prepare me because I want to go into law.”

Fulkerson, Start and Mayall said it would be a shame if the MCCE was unable to continue its work because of a lack of funding. But Start is confident that MCCE will be able to weather this financial storm and continue with the help of others who share their mission, noting that next year will be MCCE’s 30th anniversary.

“It would be a great time to be reinvented,” she said. “And it’s going to happen.”

Anyone who wants to donate time, money or expertise in aiding the MCCE is urged to visit the website, or contact Start or Fulkerson at Info@miciviced.org.


Mark Oglesby named Michigan Civic Education Teacher of the Year

November 5th, 2011 by MCCE Admin

Howell High School Teacher Mark Oglesby was recently recognized as the Michigan Civic Education Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Center for Civic Education. He received the award at the Michigan Joint Social Studies Conference in Lansing on Nov. 5.

MarkOglesbyIn 2007-2008, Oglesby was named the Howell Schools’ Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the Michigan Teacher of the Year in 2008-2009. The group’s selection committee noted that Oglesby, a social studies teacher with the district for 12 years, “teaches an advanced placement class in United States government, and because of his students’ success, he has been appointed as one of two high school teachers on the College Board’s Development Committee for advanced placement United States government. He has led his students to great success in the rigorous We the People….Citizen and the Constitution program, finishing in the top three in the state competition for seven years in a row.”

MarkOglesby2In addition, his students have been co-hosts and reporters for the National Student-Parent Mock Election Program hosted by Michigan Government Television (MGTV). In 2008, his AP students were featured in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, where they were asked to share their views on the presidential election. He has been interviewed by National Public Radio three times, most recently on December 31, 2010, when he was asked to share the civic lessons from the news. Oglesby was also awarded the American Civic Educator award this year.

“It’s an honor to win the award,” Oglesby said. “I have been fortunate to teach some great students who are excited about learning.”

Founded in 1982, the Michigan Center for Civic Education is Michigan’s premiere non-profit, non-partisan organization serving the mission of promoting the development of engaged, responsible citizens through civic and law-related education. Serving on the Center’s Advisory Board are Attorney General Bill Schuette, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly, Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan, Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue, State Bar of Michigan Executive Director Janet K. Welch, and Superintendent of Oakland Schools Dr. Vickie Markavitch.


Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament Registration is Open

November 1st, 2011 by MCCE Admin

Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament Registration is open for the 2012 Season.This year’s case is a criminal case surrounding the death of a famous musician. Was it murder, suicide, or something else … Martin Louis Siriusz was found slumped over his piano listening to a playback of his latest (and as it turned out, his last) recording, entitled “Hanging at Death’s Door.”

The people of the State of New Michigan have charged Thomas “Duke” Osiski,Siriusz’s former bandmate,with murder. The people allege that Osiski was furious over Siriusz’s eleventh-hour decision to cancel a reunion tour that would have provided Osiski with much needed financial relief. Osiski denies shooting hislong-time friend, contending that he went to the recording studio in an attempt to persuade Siriusz to reconsider his decision, but when he entered the room, he found Siriusz slumped forward on the piano with the “Death’s Door” soundtrack still playing. Seeing a bottle of alcohol and an open bottle of pills on the piano, Osiski assumed that Siriusz had accidentally OD’d. Feeling no pulse, Osiski ran out of the studio and out to the back patio, where he saw Siriusz’s 23-year-old son standing naked in the shallow end of the pool cleaning off with a bar of soap.

The MHSMTT has been organized and conducted by the Michigan Center for Civic Education since 1982. Teams of 6-10 students present arguments before panels of three judges per courtroom. One judge presides over the trial, while the others serve as the jury. Regional Tournaments will be held on March 10, 2012 in Grand Rapids and Pontiac; the State finals will be held on March 24.

Interested schools can register for the Tournament here.


Get Involved with Civic Education in Michigan!