By the end of the second day, the Dane County Courthouse guards had admitted more than 3,000 individuals through their security system. Every courtroom, save one set aside for emergencies, had been used, along with the five large hearing rooms, and both the Senate and Assembly chambers in the state capitol had been used the first day.
org gbrown wisbar George C. Brown is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
That’s right, the 2014 annual National High School Mock Trial Championship was in town. Early in May, nearly 500 high school students from 43 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and South Korea started arriving in Madison. More than 1,200 students, teachers, attorney coaches, and friends and family filled the three major downtown hotels.
On Thursday, students engaged in mock trial scrimmages. Friday began the real competition, when everyone filled the courthouse and hearing rooms. The tournament’s theme, “Zombiepocalypse,” reflected the 2014 national case of a fictional owner of an energy drink company who promoted his new beverage at a 5K-type run that involved people acting as zombies and chasing runners along the route.
On Saturday, the title round of the semifinal competition was held in the Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing room. The Washington state team bested South Carolina for the championship in a trial that many long-time observers considered one of the best ever. The third and fourth place wins went to California and Arizona, with Wisconsin’s team, from Rhinelander, finishing in a respectable eighth place.
National Mock Trial participants, families, and volunteers gather at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Saturday, May 10, 2014, to learn which two teams would compete in the final round. Photo: Deb Heneghan
More than 350 volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and helpful souls from throughout Wisconsin helped contestants find their way from the hotels to the correct courtrooms, judged the competitions, distributed lunches, chaperoned the students, and made sure the courtrooms were clean at the end of the day.
These volunteers were key to the success of the tournament. Attorney Kevin Lonergan chaired the organizing committee, but he also did much more. Although he found people to direct various aspects of the planning and preparation, Kevin also actively sought volunteers, raised money, and encouraged volunteers and staff during the challenges that always arise in any large endeavor. During the three-day tournament, courtroom liaison attorneys Tiffany Highstrom and Cassel Villarreal were vital to ensuring courtrooms were ready, courthouse staff prepared and briefed, and trials ran smoothly.
The State Bar’s Public Affairs Department staffed the organizing committee, provided detailed planning, and worked closely with the hotels and the volunteers to ensure smooth running of the tournament. Public Education Manager Katie Wilcox, who joined the State Bar staff only months before the tournament, proved more than up to the task of coordinating both the statewide Wisconsin competition and the national tournament.
Mock trial championship contestants, coaches, friends and family, volunteer lawyers, paralegals, kindred spirits, and State Bar staff: They were everywhere in downtown Madison creating an event that will be remembered by tomorrow’s leaders for the rest of their lives.