The 2021 High School Mock Trial Competition


These pages have included references before to mock trial competitions. See Argo Mock Trial 2018 and The FLREA and a Great Week (February 2019),  

I have been involved with the Florida High School Mock Trial effort for a few years. My interest began long ago in a far away galaxy called Jacksonville Beach. A member of the Jacksonville Bar Board of Governors put me in touch with a fellow named Ed Lange who taught at the high school there. He was teaching debate and trial skills to teenagers, and had constructed a courtroom in his classroom to facilitate it. I was privileged to get the nickel tour and was inspired by what he was doing. The Florida Law Related Education Association (FLREA) had just begun in 1991. 

Time passed, and geography changed. In 2011, I was recruited to judge a round of the High School Mock Trial Competition in Pensacola, and I was hooked yet again. Since then, I have judged for seven years, helped coach a team one year, and spent the last three being the Circuit Coordinator for the First Circuit competition. It is invigorating and motivating. The participants, one and all, are enthusiastic, prepared, polished, practiced, enthusiastic, and inspiring. It is common to hear critiques from local judges and lawyers praising these students as "better prepared than many lawyers." It is a privilege to work with them. 

The process involves a variety of "Circuit Competitions." In some parts of the state there is enough interest that county competitions are held to see who will be allowed to compete in that Circuit. And, in the end, each Circuit may send a team to the state competition in Orlando. Well, until 2020. See last  year we had all just finished that "Circuit" component when the Great COVID Adventure of 2020 began. Lockdowns were implemented, schools were interrupted, and travel was discouraged. There was no state competition in 2020.

Well, the state's courts have since responded to the pandemic. The Florida OJCC has responded to the pandemic. Hearings are proceeding, albeit it on Internet platforms, in "virtual mode," and many lament that things are "not the same." Certainly, but things are moving forward. I was pleased to learn that the High School Mock Trial Competition would similarly proceed in 2021. 

Onward we move. The problem, or "case," is distributed and the students are practicing. The format will be different. Gone for 2021 are the courtrooms, jury boxes; gone is some of the pomp and circumstance. The whole "eye contact," and "stand here, not there" and more are going to be replaced by "look at the camera not the screen," and "remember to turn your microphone off when not speaking." Courtesy and polish will remain at the fore, but the methodology will be different. 

But, on we go. I have only just begun to recruit judges to preside and lawyers to score the rounds in the First Circuit. We still need more presiding judges, but have a month to find them. We are blessed in the First Circuit with a university whose students persistently volunteer to help us with tasks like time keeping. We are moving forward. Despite our being blessed with volunteers and fantastic students, there are Circuits around Florida with struggles. Some because of volunteer turnover, others because of the new "virtual" paradigm, others for various reasons. 

If you are interested in being involved, check out the details on the competition website (hosted by Florida Southern University). There you can find the beginning  of the list of competitions and the email addresses to reach out to coordinators. You can likely volunteer from anywhere due to the virtual format. This is your year to become involved without any burden of travel or formality (you could likely help from the comfort of your own den, patio, or even kitchen. 

The FLREA Mock Trial is a rewarding opportunity to see the next generation in action. It is your chance to provide feedback to young people who are striving for their future. You may see a little of a former you in their efforts, struggles, and triumphs. These students are phenomenally talented, dedicated, and focused. They will undoubtedly impress and inspire you, and you will support their dreams and aspirations. 

In the years I have been involved, unequivocally, I have gained far more from their inspiration that they have ever gained from me. They are amazing. Won't you support them, their effort, and their dreams? Give them a couple hours of your time, and contribute to the next generation. It makes you feel really great! Remember what Elizabeth Andrews said: "volunteers do not necessarily have the time, they just have the heart." Will you take the time? You are welcome to email me if you need help finding a program near you to help. 

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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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