Students in grades 9 to 12 portray each of the principals in the cast of courtroom characters. Student teams study a hypothetical case, conduct legal research, receive guidance from volunteer attorneys in courtroom procedure and trial preparation, and present their case before volunteer judges.
The Mock Trial brings together students, teachers, and legal professionals from around the county to: Instill in our youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights; Educate young people to become active and responsible participants in our society; Help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system; Develop analytical abilities and communication skills; Provide an understanding of the obligations and responsibilities required of our societies members; and Extend and reinforce the History and Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools.
Since 1984 the Ventura County Office of Education has partnered with the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) to provide the Mock Trial for our students. The goal of the Constitutional Rights Foundation is to "instill in our nation's youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights and to educate young people to become active and responsible participants in our society.” Mock Trial is designed to clarify the workings of our legal institutions for students through first-hand experience.
The Mock Trial Advisor is the teacher at the school and is the official Mock Trial contact person receiving all correspondence from the county coordinator. The teacher also acts as the team coordinator and is responsible for organizing meetings and transportation to and from the competition. The teacher can also coach the team in trial strategy and legal argumentation.
Although not mandatory, most mock trial teams find it useful to have an attorney coach. The attorney coach advises the students on general trial techniques and procedures as well as on specific strategies for the case.
Teams of students prepare and present the trial from the perspectives of both the prosecution and the defense. Mock Trial team members play different roles, including trial attorneys, pretrial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, and bailiffs. Some schools offer the Mock Trial program as a class while others offer the program as an extra-curricular activity. Each team should have the following:
- 8-25 students (from the same school)
- 1 pretrial attorney for the defense, 1 pretrial attorney for the prosecution. Pretrial attorneys cannot participate as trial attorneys during the same trial but can participate as a witness.
- 3 trial attorneys for the prosecution (maximum)
- 3 trial attorneys for the defense (maximum)
- 4 witnesses for the prosecution
- 4 witnesses for the defense
- 1 clerk (participates with the prosecution team)
- 1 bailiff (participates with the defense team)
- Alternates (listed on the Team Roster/Code of Ethics Form) are included in the 25-student maximum.
- 1 courtroom artists or journalists each (maximum). These are optional contests and students participating are not included in the 25 student maximum.
The Courtroom Artist and Journalism contests are companion programs to the Mock Trial. During the Mock Trial competition, students have the opportunity to sketch a courtroom scene or write an article reporting on the trial as it unfolds. For the county competition, students must be affiliated with a participating Mock Trial team and attend the same school.