Aspiring attorneys get their day in court

By By Jay Logan Rogers

By Jay Logan Rogers

Law students had a chance to face a real judge and jury last Friday and Saturday in the annual mock trials held at the Scott Matheson Courthouse.

Law students got involved in the mock trials by enrolling in the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Trial Advocacy course, taught by clinical professor of law James R. Holbrook and adjunct professor and Salt Lake City defense attorney Greg Skordas.

“In this class, they learn about how to do a trial and about the entire litigation process,” said Trina Rich, coordinator of the mock trials.

Students in the class spent their entire semesters preparing for their days in court.

“Today is almost like a final exam. It’s half of the grade,” said Skordas.

The aspiring lawyers litigated fictional cases in real courtrooms, following actual court procedures. Utah judges from the state and federal levels conducted the trials, volunteering their own time to help develop future attorneys.

U students and other local citizens volunteered to serve on juries of four to six people.

In the mock trials, students were not judged on whether their team won the case, but rather on their individual performance in addressing the court.

“What we want to see is the kind of competence we’d expect a lawyer to have,” Skordas said.

Courtroom proceedings and jury deliberations were videotaped, and afterward students were required to watch the tapes and evaluate their own performances.

Skordas noted that this is law students’ only chance to observe a jury deliberation since that process is always closed in actual trials. He said the fact that the deliberations are taped usually has little impact on the jurors’ actions.

“After about five minutes, they forget the camera is on and comment on lawyers’ clothes or whatever they feel like talking about,” he said.

Students who participated as lawyers said the mock trials were a valuable learning experience.

“It was very nerve-racking but exciting,” said Victoria Ryder, a second-year law student. “This is the best way to get your feet wet without the ramifications of an actual trial.”

“It was a hands-on experience,” said Bob Uebelher, a second-year law student. “They tried to simulate a real-life courtroom as much as possible.”

Students who participated as jurors said they also enjoyed taking part in the process.

“It was fun. I always kind of wanted to do jury duty,” said Gina Nickl, a sophomore in film studies.

“I felt like Henry Fonda in ’12 Angry Men,'” said Courtney Jones, a junior in sociology.

The remaining mock trials will take place next Friday and Saturday.