Niwot High students laying down the law
March 10, 2017
Niwot High School’s mascot is the cougar, but it seems there are also some eagles amongst the student population. Legal eagles, that is. Two teams from Niwot High competed at the 2017 Regionals for the Colorado Bar Association High School Mock Trial Program on the weekend of February 9-11, finishing second and third, respectively, out of eleven teams total.
The result is especially impressive given that this is only the third year of Niwot’s participation in the mock trial program. Former student Caden Grant, now a freshman at George Washington University, is credited with getting the initial ball rolling, and things have “just kind of taken off from there,” said Niwot school counselor Aimee Brown, who serves as the program’s coordinator.
The mock trial program is run by the Colorado Bar Association. A single statewide fictional “case” is presented each year by the CBA in November; subsequent to that, individual teams assign roles and begin preparations. Students play the parts of either attorneys or witnesses, for both the defense and prosecution. The scoring system consists of a 1-10 point scale in each of six categories: opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, closing statement, witness performance, and professionalism.
Case material is generally freighted with a fair amount of emotional, cultural and social significance, and students have to be prepared in order to do well. This year’s case, for example, involved a child who ingested an edible marijuana product, then fell from a window and died. The child’s parents—the plaintiffs—subsequently filed suit against the company from which they had purchased the product, charging negligence in regards to the product’s packaging. “They have to be flexible, they have to think on their feet, and they have to be ready for surprises,” said Brown.
Niwot’s “varsity” team this year was led by co-captains Caitlin Hyres and Jeri Wilcox, and the “junior varsity” co-captains were Ashley Willis and Tori Sexton. Support and guidance were provided by Lead Attorney coach Erika Grant and Assistant Attorney coach Brad Hall, both of whom have served as volunteers with the program since its inception. The Boulder County Bar Association also pitched in, funding the teams’ registration fees with a $500 grant. The varsity team went on to participate in the State Tournament on March 3-4, where they competed against 24 other teams from across Colorado. Said Brown, “These students are all juggling a lot of activities, but they put a lot of time into this. They’re amazing, so fun to watch.”