Skillful Mock Trials by U-High Lawyers in Springfield
U-High Student Lawyers at MockTrial at Counsel's Table Prepping Witnesses

U-High “lawyers” prepping at the counsel table, with our witnesses behind them.

Skillful Mock Trials by U-High Lawyers in Springfield

Over the last part of Spring Break, U-High students on the Mock Trial Team traveled to Springfield, IL for the annual Illinois State Bar Association Mock Trial Invitational. 

More than forty schools participated from around the state, arguing a mock civil case of negligence designed to bring attention to the problem of distracted driving by teens due to phone usage as well as Scott's law which aims to raise awareness of the Illinois legal requirement to change lanes when approaching an emergency vehicle such as fire personnel or paramedics. Congratulations to Celine Derroitte, Raven Reid, Sahana Unni, Sygne Stole, Yusuf Arain, Jonah Austen, Kat Bean, Zoe Alphonse, and Lucy Shirrell for a remarkable showing during the event. 

After their first trial, the judge told Lab’s team that they were "more skillful than many lawyers appearing before his bench." The Illinois State Bar Association operates this event entirely on a voluntary basis with sitting Illinois administrative, state, or federal judges presiding over many rounds. 

In their second trial, one legal evaluator called the trial "the best she'd ever seen," while another legal evaluator said that they "knocked it out of the park." Perhaps more importantly, Lab’s students already knew! Team captains Celine Deroitte, Raven Reid, and Sahana Unni, who showed extraordinary leadership throughout the invitational.

“After closing arguments, their faces were the very picture of joy and pride. It was a sight to behold. As lawyers and witnesses, they were completely ‘off notes,’ sparring over small factual details, critically thinking in real time, and effectively communicating their theory of the case,” says faculty advisor Christy Gerst, History Department chair and teacher of AT Modern European History. “Lawyers made extemporaneous evidentiary objections and rewrote questions and entire arguments at counsel's table based on what they heard. Witnesses held up under rigorous cross-examination, with crocodile tears even shed,” she shared. 

U-High Student Lawyers at MockTrial after final round

Joy and pride after their final round! 

Unlike many schools with dedicated varsity and junior varsity teams, Lab’s small team of nine featured students from every grade, Gerst lauded her students, “I am so proud of the team they built. Learning by doing, their teamwork, and collaboration was Lab magic.” She added that “attorney parents Affan Arain and Jason Novak served as volunteer evaluators during the team’s suburban tournaments in late February and early March and which helped prepare them for the invitational.”

In the closing ceremonies, Lab students heard inspiring speeches from Illinois Supreme Court Justice David K. Overstreet about his time practicing law in Mt. Vernon and becoming a justice of  the highest court in the state and from incoming ISBA President Elect Sonni Choi Williams who encouraged students from all walks of life to really feel a sense of belonging in this honorable profession, as does she as the first woman lawyer of color to hold the office. 

Finally, students had the opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which provided a real sense of history for them. 

Along with Lab’s second chaperone Isaac Berreuta, who sacrificed part of his Spring Break to make the trip possible, U-High Dean of Students Ana Campos and Travel Coordinator Lucrisha Washington supported the group behind the scenes. 

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