Jan 302014

Last Tuesday, the 21rst, was just another day in Leominster District Court for Groton attorneys Susan Edgett and Chris Reardon. But for the fledgling lawyers from the new Groton-Dunstable Regional High School Mock Trial Team, it was a brand-new experience — it was the team’s first competition in its first year. At the end of the team’s first day in court, the “plaintiff team” defeated North Middlesex Regional High School according to the visiting judge’s score of 80 — 72. And Edgett and Reardon got to join in the celebration, because they are two of the team’s coaches.

Sage Mastakouras-Seppala (Plaintiff Witness: Bari Jacob), Brent Emerle (Plaintiff Aeronautical Expert Witness Dr. Henderson), and Rebecca Roberts (Plaintiff Attorney)

Colby Reardon and Kate Nash (Plaintiff Attorneys)

In its second appearance this Monday, the Groton-Dunstable team was back in action in Leominster District Court where the Defense Team took on Francis Parker Essential Charter School from Devens. last year’s regional champions. Groton-Dunstable dropped that match 90 — 80 to Parker.

Mock Trial Team coach and History, Civics & Economics teacher Jay Villagomez explained how this year’s Mock Trial program in Massachusetts works:

“The Mock Trial Competition is organized and run by the Massachusetts Bar Association. A committee of MBA lawyers and affiliates selects a challenging case every year. This year’s case deals with implied warrant of merchantability.

A fictional corporation, Carborite Industries, sold a stunt plane (Carborite Model 2) to pilot John Dimmick “Goose” Jacob.

Designed to withstand the structural stress of 6 g’s, the wings of Carborite Model 2 sheared off while the pilot was performing a daring stunt, the “Triple Lindy,” which required cutting an industrial streamer three times in midair. Based on the preponderance of evidence, the plaintiff (Jacob’s son Bari Jacob) is suing because Carborite violated the implied warrant of merchantability in selling the plan to Jacob; while the defense maintains pilot error was the cause of the tragedy.

Teacher coach and attorney coaches are given a case packet at the beginning of the season. This packet includes fictional affidavits, charts, and rule book for the entire competition. Students volunteer to be part of the mock trial team and select or are selected for the part they will have. For the plaintiff team, a minimum of three plaintiff attorneys and three witness as delineated in the case packet are selected. For the defense team, a similar number and positions are selected.

Based on the Mock Trial Competition Schedule, a school will take defense or plaintiff side in the assigned matches. Against North Middlesex, we were plaintiff; against Parker Charter (January 27) and Oakmont (February 4) we will be defense.”

Villagomez said the Groton-Dunstable Mock Trial Team started last October.

“I thought about starting a mock trial program after being hired as a history and government teacher this past August. I have seen the benefits to students of the mock trial program at my alma mater (and state winning team) in Saipan. Students gain not just an attractive entry in their college application resume, but also lifelong skills and memories gleaned from the mock trial,” he said.

“Local attorneys Christopher Reardon and Susan Edgett, State Representative Sheila Harrington, and Groton Police Officer Rachael Mead have devoted many hours helping train our students and forging a team. G-D Principal Mike Mastrullo, Dr. Bent, and Social Studies Deptartment Head Keith Woods have also been especially supportive of the program. Thanks to their help and expertise, we registered our first win,” he said.

He explained that the coaches and student team members devote six or more hours each week to learning and practice, twice a week.

The benefits of the mock trial competition are tremendous for students: they learn the legal process, read challenging legal documents and apply higher-level critical thinking skills, and become cognizant of legal careers they might be interested in.

In a play by play of last week’s trial, Villagomez wrote:

“Kate Nash deftly handled the opening statement, which she presented forcefully and knowledgeably. Throughout the match, Kate’s calm, collected presence before the judge and the defense team set the tone for the rest of the proceedings.

Gaining the only perfect score on the judge’s ballot was Sage Mastakouras-Seppala’s performance as plaintiff witness Bari Jacob, son of the deceased stunt pilot, was convincing and emotionally moving. She made the audience feel the loss of a father and the culpability of faulty aircraft maker Carborite Industries.

Colby Reardon “hit over the Green Monstah” in his cross and recross examinations of Don Hamel, the defense expert witness. He ensured the team’s win by nailing the issue in the head: Hamel himself would not fly Carborite model 2; therefore, the plane was defective and violated the warrant of implied merchantability.

Rebecca Roberts’s first appearance as plaintiff attorney helped anchor the team’s direct and cross examinations. Her knowledge of the case came through during her cross and recross examinations of the defense witness.

Brent Emerle aptly suited the role of aeronautical expert Bryce Henderson, Ph.D., as did newly-minted member Stephen Silvestri as flight instructor Matthew Dohll, who relied on “experience” to answer both the direct and cross examination questions.”

He wrote about this week’s match:

“Our team showed resilience and tenacity. Mentioned by the judge were the excellent performances of Brent Emerle and Sage Mastakouras-Seppala. Brent conducted the cross examination for the defense and followed a line of questions that placed doubt on the expert testimony of plaintiff witness Dr. Henderson.

Sage excelled in the closing statement that recapped the defense case.”