Veritas Mock Trial team

(back row) Coach Bill Gates, Emma Rowland, Jamie Greene, Vivian Tork, Isabella Barrett, Patrick Myers, Trey Godzich, Hudson Grove, Jacob Ladner. (front row) Maggie Messmer, Lauren Bruner, Sydney Myers, Emily Zbick, Claire Harris, Emily Gates, Abby Kaup & Corynn Gates and Judge Pam Gates.

Fresh off of finishing first in the Arizona State Tournament, one of the Mock Trial teams from Veritas Preparatory Academy is preparing to travel to Athens, Georgia, to square off against more than 40 other teams from across the United States in the National Tournament.

The team’s path to the national competition began back at Veritas’ Mock Trial Club, which allows students to compete against their peers while participating in all aspects of preparing a case and seeing it through Arizona’s judicial system. They present both sides of the case to judges and real attorneys during competitions and tournaments. 

Students are judged on criteria including the strength of their legal arguments, knowledge of the rules of evidence, speaking skills and effective witness portrayals. 

Students meet three times a week to practice throughout the school year. The coaches, who include practicing attorneys and judges, discuss legal strategies and approaches and provide direction on public speaking. 

The club also scrimmages against other local high school teams and participates in tournaments, including internationally. Veritas Prep has competed against teams from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Ireland as well as in San Francisco and New York City. 

To qualify for the national tournament, the Veritas Prep Mock Trial teams first competed in the Arizona State Tournament at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in downtown Phoenix on March 23. The competitors were given a fictitious scenario of a high school student who sued a local police department after a school resource officer pepper sprayed the student during class after mistakenly believing that the student had a gun. 

The two Veritas teams participated in four preliminary rounds against other schools, followed by two final rounds. Each preliminary round was scored by a panel of three attorneys, where the two final rounds had seven scoring judges and Senior U.S. District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Stephen McNamee served as the presiding judge who ruled on objections. 

“These students are a truly remarkable bunch. Within a matter of weeks, they mastered a complex set of facts and the rules of evidence taught over a semester in law school, all while fully immersed in other academic, athletic, artistic and theatrical pursuits,” said Kyle Hirsch, one of the trial coaches. “They developed a winning litigation strategy and executed with the confidence and poise of champions.” 

The Veritas teams did extremely well in the state tournament, taking first and third place. 

The team said they are excited to travel to Athens for the National competition and square off against 45 other teams from around the country, as well as South Korea and the Northern Marianas Islands. 

“We have already received a new case for Nationals and the students are hard at work preparing for the competition,” one of the club’s coaches said.