The Court is in Order: The Bishop’s Mock Trial Team Is Ready For Their Upcoming Season


Nirvana Shiwmangal

When the team goes to a Mock Trial competition, they must look the part of real attorneys— hence the formal wear. Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Shea Rueda (’23), Nason Li (’25), Audrey An (‘23), James Stutts (’23), Ryan Arrowsmith (’23), Zayd Aslam (’23), Sebastian Garma (’23), Marina Khoury (’24),Williams Guo (’24), Candace Dada (’25), Bella Combs (’25), William Keefe (’23), Gabi Rosen (’23), Katelyn Wang (’23), Novalyne Petreikis (’23), Katy Silva (’23), Ms.Uhland, Sydney Chan (’24), Sophie Arrowsmith (’26), Riley Ross (’26), Annalise Chang (‘23).

On February 9th, the Bishop’s Mock Trial team will make its way to the San Diego Courthouse in Downtown, and finally kick off this year’s official season.

The Mock Trial team here on campus has worked tirelessly for this day, since the beginning of the school year. They were assigned a fictional court case back in early September, and have since been assigned roles and jobs to have a sort of “trial day” for this imagined case — where they argue the case against other schools (there are multiple rounds or “trial days,” but the first one is on February 9th). Some students are assigned to be witnesses, and others as attorneys.

Because the preparation for a single case is so long, only one is assigned per year. This Mock Trial season, the case is People v. Franks. It tells the story of two rivaling actors aboard a cruise ship that is performing the play, Macbeth at Sea. One of the actors, Billy Scher, is usually the one that ends up getting the lead roles. Scher is known for their family connections and claims to have been gifted a ring that once belonged to Shakespeare. Scher’s biggest competition, Jordan Franks, is accused of battery and theft. More specifically, of stealing the ring and breaking two of Scher’s bones. The attorneys of the case must argue on whether or not Jordan is guilty. “It feels like a detective case, but in real time,” said Audrey An (‘23), who is a trial attorney on the Defense team.

Preparing for the case is time-consuming, as there is simply a lot to get done. Many of the members participate in the Honors U.S. Government class during the school day. Before this year, it was mandatory to take the U.S. Government Class to be on the team; but this year, they have a new coach — Spanish teacher Ms. Nicole Uhland — and students can be on the Mock Trial team without being in the class. 

Students in the Honors U.S. Government Class meet during Period 2 with History and Social Sciences Teacher Mr. Hallback, and on A-Days, practice Mock Trial with Ms. Uhland. Those not enrolled in the class meet during lunch on C-days, where the team can all work together towards preparing the case. Ms. Uhland, the attorney coaches — current, professional, practicing attorneys — and some members of the class also help out.

In addition, members of the teams have different roles, meaning there is a lot of individual preparation as well. As a witness in the trial, for example, William Guo (‘24) provides testimony and answers questions about his character’s involvement or knowledge of the case. “I’m a security guard on board the cruise ship,” William said. “We have to memorize our parts and also read the facts of the case.” 

Those directly involved in the arguing of the case are attorneys. Audrey, for example, works on the defense side. “There are three trial attorneys, [so] I’m the center trial attorney who questions,” she explained. As an attorney, Audrey must write and prepare arguments for the cases and come up with questions based on the evidence of the case she has been given. 

Both witness and attorneys are assigned to a side — prosecution (arguing that Frank is guilty), or defense (arguing he is not). The Bishop’s team, therefore, has people arguing both sides: four attorneys and three witnesses for both prosecution and defense respectively. When they get to the real competitions against other schools, the prosecution Bishop’s team will argue against the defense team of a certain school, and the Bishop’s defense team will argue against the prosecution of another school.Ultimately, the Bishop’s team’s overall “score” is looked at collectively, graded by  how both the prosecution team and the defense teams performed. 

However, as William explained, “Guilty or not guilty doesn’t really matter for your win or loss.” Though participants get scored by real lawyers, students are judged on their argumentative and presentational skills for attorneys and ability to personify a character well for witnesses—not necessarily the verdict that the judge ultimately decides on. 

In addition to different roles, different members of the Bishop’s team enjoy doing Mock Trial for different reasons. As an actress at Bishop’s, witness Katy Silva (‘23) mentioned that she “really enjoys taking on a character.” Though she doesn’t have as much familiarity with complex legal concepts of the case, Katy said that doing Mock Trial has “been a really fascinating and fun experience.” She added, “I love watching all the attorneys at work — it’s really cool what they do.” 

Annalise Chang (‘23), on the other hand, is a big fan of the legal aspects of Mock Trial. “Talking about constitutionality in various cases — that’s kind of my thing,” she explained.  The law aspect of the case is also important to Katelyn Wang (‘24), who is a witness on the team. “Mock Trial requires a sharp understanding of the law,” she explained, “It is fun to apply those concepts to the presentation and execution of our tactics.”

One thing almost all members felt the same about, however, was how “real” the rounds feel. The rounds take place in real courtrooms at the San Diego Courthouse, where there is a jury composed of attorney scorers, witnesses, attorneys, and real judges and lawyers overseeing the case. 

“I really like how it feels like a legitimate case,” said Audrey. William similarly added, “I like actually having to go through  motions….I’m looking forward to going to an actual courthouse [where] you have to dress up.”

And of course, all the team members expressed excitement for seeing everything finally culminate together. “Seeing everyone grow…just being able to memorize really quickly, being able to deliver really well,” Annalise explained, “I think that’s been really cool.”

After their initial round on February 9th, the team is guaranteed three other rounds. After that, it’s all about how they qualify. “I’m excited to face off against more schools and work closely with my team,” said Katelyn. “We learn with every match, so I’m excited to see where we get to!” Ms. Uhland felt similarly, and she has loved “seeing the students grow in their public speaking, acting, and debating skills.” She added, “I also love how much the team supports each other and wants everyone to do well. It’s a Mock Trial family.”