Upper School students competed against local high schools at mock trials.
Both the prosecution and defense teams from St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Upper School won their cases at the local model judiciary competition, held January 31 at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Co-sponsored by the Fairfax Bar Association and Virginia YMCA, this program provides an opportunity for high school students to participate in the trial and appellate phases of legal proceedings. Students are given a scripted outline of a criminal or civil jury trial and assigned a volunteer attorney who assists them in preparing to conduct the trials as attorneys. Judges from the Fairfax County courts preside over the trials, and students from the various participating high schools also serve as witnesses, court clerks, and jurors.
The Saints prosecution team of juniors Sarah Lowe and Matt Weisenfluh earned a second-degree murder conviction, the highest possible in the case, against the legal team from South County High School. The defense team of juniors Jack Brown, Caroline Curran, and Ja’Von Price earned an involuntary manslaughter verdict against the legal team from Paul VI Catholic High School for their defendant, played by sophomore Sam Dubke. Several more Saints participated as witnesses on either the prosecution or defense team.
“They were amazing!” said Steve Ebner, Upper School history department chair and an attorney himself. “Our students represented us with dominance and pride during the trials. It’s really an awesome experience for the students – extremely official and very authentic.” Mr. Ebner explained that the model judiciary experience is another way our students practice 21st century skills like teamwork, advocacy, debate, public speaking, problem-solving, analysis, and deductive reasoning.
Mr. Ebner and experienced trial lawyer Frank Salvato worked with our student teams several times a week for about a month to prepare for the mock trials. This is the second consecutive year SSSAS has participated in the model judiciary.