Mock Trial at PHS


Luka Vaicekauskas

Judge Christopher Nash, with the co-captains- Luke McLaughlin and Kate Bentley, and the rest of the team posing for the camera while in Judge Nash’s courtroom at the George Edgecomb Courthouse. The team participated in the Empire Mock Trial Competition, and placed 13th.

Luka Vaicekauskas , Features Editor

Mock Trial is a competition in which students simulate a real trial. The cases chosen alternate between civil and criminal cases yearly, with the case being entirely fictional. Mock Trial is the home to many aspiring future lawyers, diplomats, businesspeople, and government officials, all coached by Judge Christopher Nash.  

“2021 marks my 3rd year coaching the Plant High Schools’ Mock Trial team,” Judge Nash said. “I was a judge in one of the Mock Trial competitions, four years ago, and one of the teams in my courtroom was Plants, and Ms. Phillips contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in coaching the team, and I have been helping out ever since.” 

Judge Nash is a circuit judge at the George Edgecomb courthouse. His career was mostly composed of business lawsuits. As a judge, however, he has done every kind of case- civil cases, criminal cases, juvenile cases, family law cases, etc.  

“I went to the University of Florida, with undergraduate in political science, then I did the NBA program, master’s in business, and then Law School at the University of Florida once again,” Judge Nash said. “When I was at the University of Florida Law School, I was on their trial team, where I was the most valuable member, and we did lots of national competitions.”

While Mock Trial tournaments teach real courtroom skills, there are some differences. First, a majority of the trial is rehearsed, which is certainly different from a real court, since there are not real witnesses present who may remember or change things at the last minute. In brief, high school students act out a civil or criminal trial by arguing for either the prosecution or defense side against another team, which acts as the opposing side.  

“The purpose of the Mock Trial Team is to teach students about the trial process, and also to give students practice with public speaking,” Judge Nash said. 

The Mock Trial Team at PHS is coached by Judge Christopher Nash with the aid of the teacher sponsor, Ms. Phillips. Students sign up at the beginning of the year, and then select their position in the team, whether they want an attorney or witness role, or just no role for the upcoming competition against other teams.  

“I am the teacher sponsor of the Mock Trial Team, as I started doing Mock Trails in my classes, and there was an interest for the students to continue and compete against other teams,” Ms. Phillips said. “I did interschool competitions, and they wanted to see how they would fair against other schools, and so I entered us into the county competition, and that was five years ago.” 

During the 2021 Mock Trail World Championships, the current junior and the co-captain of the team, Luke McLaughlin, participated in the 1-on-1 Mock Trial World Championship in which he represented Plant High School with “professionalism and skill.”  

“I think that Moch Trail is good for students, as it helps with public speaking skills, helps build confidence and comrade among students, and it’s a good way for kids to get involved in a school activity,” Ms. Phillips said. 

However, not everyone in the Mock Trial team is interested in a law career, and that includes Kate Bently, the other co-captain of the team. 

“I actually don’t want to pursuit a legal career in the future, as both of my parents are attorneys, they tell my how difficult being a lawyer is, and how there’s like a ton of busywork, and I am more interested in doing a job where I can travel. I would love to do foreign affairs, be a diplomat- Model UN type stuff, or maybe go into business,” Kate said. 

Additionally, many students begin their Mock Trial career in middle schools throughout Florida, and that includes Hillsborough County.  

“I joined the Mock Trial Team in 7th grade, as we had it at Wilson Middle School, and Judge Nash was also a sponsor there,” Bentley said. Honestly, probably as both of my parents are attorneys, I have been hearing about it growing up, and I have always been interested in trials, so I just decided to join the club.” 

But Mock Trial is not a typical club or extracurricular, the tasks include research, legal knowledge, and good time management skills. Just as for Makenzie Hawkins, a junior: 

“Mock Trial is different from the other clubs at Plant that I am involved in, as for it you actually have to do some work, and in most clubs, you just kind of sit there or get service hours, but for Mock Trial you have to read the case packets, know what types of objections there are, and be a “lawyer,” Makenzie said. 

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