Upper School students competed against local high schools at mock trials.
Both the prosecution and defense teams from St. Stephen's and St. Agnes Upper School won their cases at the local model judiciary competition, held January 26 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 Wendy Buendia, Alex Bourjaily and Jessica Lopez earned a second-degree murder conviction, the highest possible in the case, against the legal team from Loudoun Valley High School. The defense team of senior James Hurley, junior Claire Fergusson and sophomore Nicole Moran earned an involuntary manslaughter verdict against the legal team from Paul VI Catholic High School for their defendant, played by junior Ryan Vuono. Several more Saints participated as witnesses on either the prosecution or defense team.
“As always, our kids were amazing!” said Steve Ebner, Upper School history teacher and an attorney himself. “We had a few last minute changes and fill-ins due to some conflicts, and the replacements performed as if they’d been there all along. Our teams didn’t miss a beat. Our students represented us with grace, passion, and dignity befitting the Saints community. 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 Mr. Alec Robinson (Upper School Latin teacher and attorney) along with experienced outside 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 third consecutive year, and eleventh overall that SSSAS has participated in the model judiciary.