Group bails out mock trial program
The Hawaii High School Mock Trial program, whose future had been in doubt, has a new lease on life, courtesy of the Young Lawyers Division of the Hawaii State Bar Association.
The Young Lawyers decided to take on the project after the nonprofit group that had run mock trial since 1994 -- the Hawaii Friends of Civic and Law-Related Education -- bowed out, citing other priorities.
"The program is near and dear to the hearts of many of our board members," said Jill Hasegawa, president of the Young Lawyers Division. She participated in mock trial at Hilo High School, and said it introduces young people to the legal system and "trains you how to think and how to approach different problems."
In mock trial, students play the roles of lawyers and witnesses, preparing both sides of a case and going to trial before real judges, who donate their time to hear cases. The program helps students blossom into confident speakers who can analyze tough issues under fire, while acting out real-life dramas.
"You see these kids going from the point where they're afraid to say their own name in front of everyone else to the point where they're doing cross examinations," said Will Tanaka, a board member of the Young Lawyers Division who helped with Hawaii Baptist Academy's mock trial club. "It really inspires you."
Kauai High School, which has had a string of state victories, will again represent Hawaii at the National Mock Trial Championship in Wilmington, Del., next month. Nineteen teams from 15 schools across Hawaii competed this year. The program has been funded with fees from teams and an annual grant from the Hawaii State Bar Association.
The Friends of Civic and Law-Related Education announced in January that it would no longer run the program after this season, and had been seeking another group to take it on.
Hasegawa said her group hopes to persuade more lawyers to volunteer to coach teams. "There were a handful of high schools that wanted coaches but didn't have them," she said.