Mock Trial: Cult, Club, and Representatives of Tam


Tam High Mock Trial participants at annual State Championship in 2018

By Emily Spears and Caroline Herdman

Dear Tam (a message from Mock Trial’s Captains)

“Mock trial forgets that they’re a club … again.”

That was The Tam News’ response to the mock trial team winning our state competition last year. As I’m sure everyone is aware, mock trial is technically a club. We receive no funding from the school. No, we aren’t a sport (even though some of us might have claimed jokingly in the past) because what we do is not athletic.

But what some students fail to recognize is that Tam High Mock Trial is the only California team to have won the county competition (equivalent to MCALs) for more than 20 years consecutively, and the only team in California to win Nationals.

So when the team won state last year, the reaction from some students was, at first glance, hurtful. We were disappointed that we hadn’t received more encouragement from our student body. But maybe this failure to recognize Tam High Mock Trial’s achievements isn’t indicative of a deliberate lack of support; maybe it’s indicative of a failure to understand just what it means to be a part of this intellectually competitive team.

So let’s back up because so far, this article probably just feels like another Mock Trial kid ranting about how good we are while everyone groans and turns the other cheek. But as co-captains who have dedicated our entire high school experience to this nerdy competition of the law, we want others to get a grasp of what mock trial is and just how much work and commitment go into it before we receive harsh judgment from our peers.

Every year, the team gets a criminal case to work on up until State. Roles are assigned for the prosecution and the defense, including trial attorneys, pretrial attorneys, witnesses, clerk, and bailiff. The team proceeds to build our case; we brainstorm theories and themes, crafting elaborate objection responses and writing powerful, intelligent opening statements and closing arguments. Pretrial attorneys spend the season analyzing, memorizing, and mastering case law so that they can artfully reference it during their high-pressure argument to the judge during trial. And then the competition begins. We start with inconsequential, 2-hour scrimmages against other teams who sometimes travel that same length of time to compete against us at Tam. And as the season proceeds, we travel to Orange County, Hayward, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, *knock on wood* Sacramento for State, and last year, Reno for nationals.

This is what some people might not know, or fail to recognize: every single member of this team has sacrificed social events, spending time with their families, completing assignments, days of school, and countless weekends to make a great objection, get a starting role, and grasp that county-win every year.

Mock trial is a lot of work. It’s a lot of intensity and commitment just to dress up in suits and pretend to be lawyers. So why? Why did we stick around for 4 years? Why do we sacrifice every evening in January from 7-9? Why is everyone not just willing, but excited to come back each year, each day? The answer is not straight forward, but it comes down to how much each and every one of us cares — not necessarily about the law or the trial, but about each other. In the wake of all of the sports glory and basketball games we’ve missed, is 30 kids sitting in Ms. Ramsey’s classroom, falling on the floor laughing and running intense, perfected cross-examinations. We are 30 people so different from one another in a school setting, yet bonded by this passion that we share. In some ways, the rest of the school’s indifference to mock trial has made us closer — the only people that truly understand the reward of this team are the people on it.

So why should everyone else care in the slightest? Why do we pretentiously talk about mock trial all the time, spewing our pride all over the place? Why do we take so much pride in mock trial? The answer is simple — because no one else will. We are shut down by our peers so often, but that’s okay. We get it. We’re annoying. Ultimately, this may come down to a lack of understanding of what mock trial is and does. But the purpose of this article isn’t to guilt you or ask for praise, it’s to tell you what we do. It’s to let you know why we talk about mock trial so often, why we dress up in suits every weekend, why we are so devoted to this team, even if it is just a club.

We also recognize that Tam’s relationship with mock trial is a sort of snowball effect. It is understandable that our attitude may come off as cocky and arrogant to other students, which inherently does not make them inclined to support us. And then, consequently, because of that lack of support, we feel the need to boast our achievements even more. With that said, we will attempt to dial down the conceit. In turn, we ask for some positive support from our classmates.