Sheboygan High School fielded a mock trial team after a 12-year hiatus. Team members are, left to right, front row: team attorneys Sean Kream, Ashley Jakubowski and Carly Cooper; Second row: team witnesses Mallory Kittelson, Jacob Reineking, and Mai-linh Morgan, and time keeper Emily Miller. Back row: attorney coaches Andrew Morgan and Elizabeth Rich, and teacher coach Nanette Bulebosh. Photo submitted.
Feb. 19, 2020 – Following competitions in 11 regional tournaments, 22 teams are headed to the semifinals and finals of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 37th Annual High School Mock Trial Competition.
A total of 103 teams – and more than 1,000 students – traveled to regional trials in 11 courthouses around the state to participate in the program.
Wisconsin High School Mock Trial is a State Bar of Wisconsin program funded by the Wisconsin Law Foundation, the charitable arm of the State Bar. Founded in 1983, the program helps students gain a deeper understanding of our legal system while developing leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Each team appeared before a jury of volunteer attorneys who assess their performance and ability to argue their side of the case, including Milwaukee civil litigator Christa Wittenberg.
Volunteering for the competitions is a “great reminder of how talented young people are,” said Wittenberg. “It’s also a great chance to get to know fellow mock trial judges.”
Wittenberg participates as a judge at the regional competition each year – something she’s done since 2014. “I participated in mock trial as a high school student in Racine County and loved it. It was one reason I became a lawyer – even though I was not especially good at it,” she said.
The students show amazing confidence, she said, and a great ability to think on their feet. “They clearly worked many hours to memorize and practice the lines of questioning and opening statements and closing arguments,” she said. “While it is all impressive, the most incredible part is when a student makes an evidentiary objection. Some of the objections are spot on, and are even better than many lawyers could do.”
The Nicolet High School team celebrates its first-place win at the Kenosha regional competition at the Racine County Courthouse. Team members are, left to right: Erin Poll, Ty Tipton, Christian Marowski, Tristin McCreight, Mia Lima, Jessica Mazin, Annika Timm, and Ryan Mortonson (not pictured: Hannah Malsch). The team’s attorney coach is Howard Tolkan and teacher coach is Bridget Nimmer. Photo submitted.
Finals in Madison – and One Team to Nationals
The top 22 teams – first- and second-place winners, listed below – head to the semifinal tournament on March 13 and 14, in Madison. The two finalists will appear before a judging panel in the State Capitol building in the finals on March 15. The winner of the state finals will compete in the Mock Trial National Championship in Evansville, Indiana, on May 7-10, 2020, with teams from across the U.S. and the globe.
Winners, Not Headed to State
Sheboygan’s team did not make it to the semifinals competition – but that’s understandable, since it was their first team in a very long time.
It takes a lot of effort and dedication to field a high school mock trial team – and even more so when that team is starting up – either for the first time, or after a long break.
Such is the case with the team that competed this year from Sheboygan – a team formed thanks to the efforts of local attorney Andrew Morgan.
In 2005, Morgan moved his practice from Milwaukee to Sheboygan. That year, he volunteered for the first time as judge at the regional tournament, hosted in Sheboygan at the time. “Sheboygan had a very robust mock trial environment, with about five schools competing from the county,” Morgan said.
In fact, the team from Sheboygan South took third in the national competition about 20 years ago. But in recent years, interest slackened, with no teams competing from Sheboygan.
Last year, Morgan volunteered in 2019 as a judge for both the regional and semi-final tournaments – the first time after 2005 that he participated. “I was so impressed by the caliber of the students, that I decided to try to get the ball rolling again in Sheboygan,” he said.
With the cooperation of the school district, he pulled together a team that was a blend of students from North and South high schools that also included a teacher coach, Nanette Bulebosh, experienced in theater and drama, and an assistant coach, Elizabeth Rich, who was part of a regional champion team from Plymouth.
Attorney volunteer judges gather prior to the Juneau regional competition in Beaver Dam. Photo: Tatiana Shirasaki.
“Our new team ultimately ended up with four students from Sheboygan South and three from North,” Morgan said. And despite their inexperience, “we did fairly well against some very seasoned teams,” Morgan said. With his underclass students promising to come back next year, he hopes for two teams in 2021.
His takeaways for the lawyers of Wisconsin? “This entire experience is extremely worthwhile,” Morgan said. “I strongly encourage attorneys in areas throughout the State to put together at least one team, as there are many high schoolers who would love to participate in mock trial.”
Volunteer Judges Needed for Mock Trial Semifinals
The Wisconsin High School Mock Trial Semifinal Tournament is coming up on March 13-14, in Madison at the Dane County Courthouse. The State Bar of Wisconsin is seeking attorney volunteers to serve as judges for the competition.
Volunteers are needed for the following rounds:
- Friday, March 13, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (arrive by 5:15 p.m. for training)
- Saturday, March 14, 8 a.m. to noon (arrive by 7:30 a.m. for training)
- Saturday, March 14, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (arrive by 12:30 p.m. for training)
Judges receive access to the case materials and rules of the tournament in advance.
If you are able to volunteer your time for any of these rounds, complete the Volunteer Sign-up Form. Contact Katie Wilcox with any questions at org kwilcox wisbar wisbar kwilcox org or (608) 250-6191.
The 2020 Mock Trial Regional Winners
Congratulations to these teams who will compete in the semifinals, listed by regions:
- River Falls High School
- Superior High School
- Bay Port High School
- Oshkosh West High School
- Nicolet High School
- Lakeview Technology Academy
- River Valley High School
- Logan High School
- Middleton High School
- Madison West High School
- Whitefish Bay High school
- Shorewood High School
- Kewaskum High School
- Marshfield High School