Eyewitness Report: Lincoln Mock Trial Competitions


Carter Fein walking inside the court room. Located at Santa Clara County Superior Court (Angela Chan).

“AM JUST SYS” is what it says on my transcript, it’s a seventh period class offered at Abraham Lincoln High School but to me it’s known as Mock Trial. Mock Trial is a team that stimulates court trials, where we prepare to eventually compete with other schools at The Santa Clara County Superior Court in downtown San Jose.

However, this is very different from a real court since the majority of the trial is rehearsed and memorized, we are also limited in the arguments and motions we make due to time constraints. While it’s not a real trial, the work we put in preparation is uncanny to one. This team of students is coached by Mr. Adas who also teaches AP Government on campus and our attorney coach Richard Nguyen, who won the State Championships during his time at Abraham Lincoln High School in 2002. 

You must be wondering, well what do you do? All schools are given the same case packet yearlong. The case they give us is based on an official trial, this year it was People V. Matsumoto. This case was a murder trial between spouses that became enemies. Usually the case alternates between a civil and a criminal case every year, but recently I’ve received a repetition of murder cases. Students audition for roles in the beginning of the year, after we choose the roles such as: bailiff, witness, attorney, pretrial attorney.

Lincoln preparing for the comepetition. Located at Santa Clara County Superior Court (Angela Chan).

Teams consist of eight to twelve members, but only six compete at any given time – 3 attorneys and 3 witnesses. These six people will go against six other people from a different university. Teams must prepare both sides of the case (prosecution/plaintiff and defense) for every competition. At each tournament, there are four rounds. In each round you perform only one side of your case, meaning you will act as prosecution/plaintiff or defense. A trial consists of a pretrial motion, opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations, and closing statements. Since each team provides three witnesses in a round, a total of six witnesses will be presented in each round of competition, each requiring a direct examination (by an attorney on their team) and a cross-examination (by an attorney from the opposing team). All of these are prepared prior to trial. In addition, attorneys must think on their feet. They learn how to object to the other side using the Midlands Rules of Evidence, which is based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. During these rounds, the judges who are real-life attorneys score the students on a scale of 1 to 10. This score is based on poise, memorization, and overall argument. The team that has the most points at the end of a round wins that round. At the end of four rounds, scores are tabulated and the winners are announced. During the competition, every team will present twice as the prosecution/plaintiff and twice as the defense. 

So far this year we competed against three schools. The first competition of the season we went against Willow Glen’s defense team and lost. The score was 565 to 654. The second competition we went against Homestead’s prosecution and lost again. The score was 413 to 394. The third competition we went against Monta Vista and we won! The score was 438 to 464. 

Evan Cajigas and Gibson Davis smiling before the competition. Located at Santa Clara County Superior Court (Angela Chan).

Mock Trial is a terrifying and enlightening experience. After spending four years of high school being on this team I can tell you that it reinforces your confidence and demeanor constantly. I have learned to coordinate the way I conduct myself on a professional scale and I have Mock Trial to thank for it. I have worked with countless impressive and patient minds, who have taught me more than some teachers. I think pretending to be a fake lawyer in front of a bunch of real lawyers is extremely nerve-wracking, but when it comes to bravery, Mock Trial is where you nurture that skill.