Bronx Science’s 2021 Virtual Mock Trial and Moot Court Seasons

The Bronx Science Mock Trial and Moot Court Teams continue to practice and compete via Zoom, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Here+is+the+2020+Bronx+Science+Mock+Trial+Team+at+a+competition%2C+before+the+Coronavirus+pandemic+changed+everything.+Last+year%2C+the+team+competed+in+front+of+a+judge+in+a+court+room.+This+year%2C+all+competitions+are+conducted+via+Zoom%2C+due+to+the+pandemic.+

Reese Villazor

Here is the 2020 Bronx Science Mock Trial Team at a competition, before the Coronavirus pandemic changed everything. Last year, the team competed in front of a judge in a court room. This year, all competitions are conducted via Zoom, due to the pandemic.

It was not often that you saw a student in Advanced Placement U.S. History decked out from head to toe in formal wear holding a binder with the thickness of a textbook. It is certainly not often now. But for members of Bronx Science’s Mock Trial/Moot Court team, this is just part of our routine when competition season arrives. 

As a team of only about thirteen to twenty students (depending on the season), they are a tight-knit group, including ninth graders through seniors. The fall season consists of Moot Court, while the spring season is Mock Trial. During the Moot Court season, students are given a case and corresponding case law, and their task is to write and present oral arguments to a judge. In Moot Court competitions, there are only two competitors per team, and the rest of the team works behind the scenes to take notes on the opposing teams’ cases and develop arguments. In essence, Moot Court gives students an introduction to legal language and terms, as well as how to address questions presented by a judge. 

Meanwhile, during the Mock Trial season, students are given a fictional case and asked to “act out” a trial, complete with witnesses and attorneys representing both sides. 12 students are starters, half representing witnesses who take on a more theatrical role, and half representing lawyers, who take on a more legal and technical stance and argue for or against the defendant.

Mr. Symons, the team’s advisor and an A.P. World History teacher at Bronx Science, feels that much has changed now that Mock Trial and Moot Court have become entirely virtual. Symons, who has been the advisor for 10+ years has never experienced a season quite like this one, and said, “I think what I miss the most about Mock Trial is traveling to the competitions. Mock Trial rounds are held in the Criminal Courthouse near City Hall, which is a very long subway ride. Often, the students will try to cram as much extra practice they can get while sitting (or sometimes standing) on the crowded Number 4 train. Mostly, the subway rides were a time for the team to bond with each other. We haven’t been able to do that for more than a year.” 

One of the captains of the team, Reese Villazor ’21, has been on the Mock Trial team since her first year in high school, and feels the contrast of practicing and competing online instead of in-person. What Villazor misses most about in-person Mock Trial are the memorable, personal small team-bonding moments. “Most of all, I miss sharing the Mock Trial experience with my team, whether it was celebrating outside a courthouse at 8 p.m., marveling at the view of the sunset from our law firm, or goofing off on the subway on our way to practice.” Despite the additional obstacles the team has encountered this year, Villazor is still extremely thankful for the opportunity to spend her last year at Bronx Science as a member of the team, regardless of how different this year was from others.

As one of the team captains myself, one of the aspects that I miss the most about in-person Moot Court/Mock Trial is speaking with real lawyers and getting their feedback while in the room with them. During a regular school year, before the Coronavirus pandemic changed everything, our practices took place in an empty conference room in the Friedman-Kaplan law firm at the center of bustling Times Square, where we met with real attorneys who helped us to prepare arguments, refine objections, and gain overall confidence when public speaking. I miss the energy of these conversations, most of all. 

Currently, the Mock Trial season is in full swing (virtually) and the team has won its most recent competition against Townsend Harris High School a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Mock Trial team has advanced to the ‘Sweet 16,’ meaning the Bronx Science team is in the top sixteen out of all Mock Trial teams in New York City. Our next competition is towards the end of April 2021, so be sure to stay updated on the team’s progress via the Bronx Science website.

It is unfortunately my last year on both teams, and although this year’s experience was not what I anticipated, I will never forget the sense of community I found here. Bronx Science can be an overwhelming place given the sheer size of the student body, but in Mock Trial, I was able to find a small group of people with shared passions. For anyone who is interested in the legal system or public speaking, I strongly encourage you to try out for Mock Trial and Moot Court, as it is a place where you will be able to create your own community within the larger Bronx Science community.

“Most of all, I miss sharing the Mock Trial experience with my team, whether it was celebrating outside a courthouse at 8 p.m., marveling at the view of the sunset from our law firm, or goofing off on the subway on our way to practice,” said Reese Villazor ’21.

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