MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – The Mock Trial season came to an end last Saturday.
De La Salle’s talented ‘witnesses’ and ‘attorneys’ finished the year in the Macomb County Mock Trial Regional Competition held at the Macomb County Circuit Courthouse in Mount Clemens. The event, staged by the Michigan Center for Civic Education, featured dozens of students on 13 teams from the county, as well as many local judges and attorneys.
“You’re in the courtroom with an actual judge and the jury is made up of attorney members and they give you tallies and points on how well you do for each participant,” said Rebecca Cook, De La Salle’s mock trial moderator. “Then whoever the highest two teams are moves on to states.”
While the Pilots didn’t finish in the top two, they did enjoy a positive experience that will help them improve next season. De La Salle loses just two seniors to graduation this year – Nicholas Schmidt and Nicholas Lachajewski – which means plenty of experience should dot next year’s roster.
Mock trial has proven to be an instructional strategy for high school students, helping them gain a better understanding of the law and legal system while offering a chance to develop critical thinking and public speaking. Good mock trials leave students with an appreciation of the difficulties that judges, lawyers, and juries face daily in an attempt to present relevant facts and legal arguments, and how these pieces fit together to ensure just resolution of the issues.
Typically, teams hear a traditional civil or criminal case. But this year, the Pilots received an immigration asylum and deportation case. Although not really criminal, the case involved judicial orders that could – in a real-life court case – affect whether a person can legally remain in the United States.
The case involved a 19-year-old named Quin Zion from the fictitious country of Freedonia. De La Salle students had since November to prepare arguments for both sides – the respondent and the government.
“He came to the United States on scholarship to go to college,” said Cook, of the made-up character. “They had a government overthrown during the time he was in America and they revoked his scholarship. He was supposed to go back to his country, but he didn’t because he was scared that he would be persecuted because he was from the other religious political party. So he filed for asylum to stay in America.”
Witnesses were Schmidt, junior Nico Praet, and freshman Gianni Fratarcangeli and attorneys were Lachajewski, juniors Jacob Ramlow, Mark Fratarcangeli, Nicholas Yee, Nathan Arnold, sophomores Alexander Hubbs, Mark Meyerhoff and Nino Trivelloni.
De La Salle alumnus and criminal defense attorney Kyle Kole ’06, volunteered his time to help prep the students for Saturday’s three rounds of judging, spanning nine hours. Judge Joseph Toia, who was appointed to the Macomb County Circuit Court bench in 2015, heard some of the Pilots’ case.
Cook identified Jacob Ramlow and Mark Fratarcengeli as students ripe to become outstanding jurists in the future.
“Definitely the ones who are outspoken usually stick out, like Jacob Ramlow,” Cook said. “In class, he wants to argue, but he was phenomenal on Saturday just because he held his own. He’s so good at thinking on his feet.
“Mark Fratarcengeli is in his second year and he’s a junior, so I assume he will do it again next year and he will be extremely strong. His brother is doing it now, too, and we only had two members on the team that did this last year.”
Cook, in her second year as an English teacher at De La Salle, sees a bright future for the Pilots mock trial team.
“We have a lot of students who want to be attorneys already,” she said. “So those are usually the ones who want to gravitate. We get a lot of the drama club kids too. If you’re playing a witness, you’re basically acting. You have to memorize your testimony and that’s like your role. So those kids work really well for that. Other than that, I go for the kids that are confident, like to participate, and can think quickly on their feet.
“But they were all great in front of a judge and a jury because they are all passionate about it.”