The OBA-OJEN Competitive Mock Trial (OOCMT) program is one of our most popular annual activities. Each spring since 2014 until the arrival of Covid-19 last year, hundreds of students throughout the province compete in regional tournaments held at local courthouses. The experiential nature of the mock trial and the exposure to justice sector professionals make it an exciting way for students to learn how the justice system works. For many Ontario high school students, it is the highlight of their academic year.
Covid-19 has made in-person mock trials impossible; however, a modified version of the OOCMT program continues this year, allowing students to participate remotely.
The adapted OOCMT program offers two separate paths for participation, making it possible for as many students as possible to participate:
- The traditional Competitive format offers participants the same opportunity to engage in a full virtual mock trial.
- The Alternative format allows students the opportunity to submit Opening and Closing arguments for the case while avoiding specific time commitments.
Both the competitive and alternative formats use the same case scenario, R v Kim, which centres around the charges of Assault Causing Bodily Harm and Unlawfully Causing Bodily Harm.
For weeks, students across the province have worked remotely with volunteer lawyer coaches preparing for the mock trial tournaments taking place throughout the spring.
Peel Mock Trial Tournament
On April 8th, Peel was the first region this year to hold its tournament by Zoom. From the 6 teams who competed in the preliminary rounds, student teams from Central Peel Secondary School and St. Joseph Secondary School went on to the final round.
The Chair of the Peel Regional Committee, Justice William Lamay, welcomed and thanked both the student and teachers for participating in the tournament during such a challenging year. He noted the added burden that mock trial preparations made for the teachers and students on top of the other difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The mock trial was presided over by judges from all 3 Ontario courts: Justice Michael H. Tulloch of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Justice Leonard Ricchetti of the Superior Court of Justice and Justice Paul F. Monahan of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Both the Crown and defense teams argued their positions well. In critiquing the students’ performances afterward, Justice Tulloch commented that it was apparent everyone had spent a significant amount of time preparing and had mastered the facts of the case.
Although it did not take place in a physical courthouse, the intensity of the competition was still evident on Zoom. Each team argued the case skillfully. All 3 judges remarked how impressed they were by the advocacy skills the students had shown. In his comments, Justice Ricchetti also praised the witnesses for their testimony during cross examination.
In the end, no winner was declared. Justice Monahan commended all the participants, not only for doing an excellent job, but for doing so in the middle of a pandemic.
Over the next month, regional OOCMT tournaments will be held virtually for students in Halton and Toronto, as well as a Provincial tournament for students from across Ontario. Best of luck to all the teams, and many thanks to the teachers, lawyer coaches and judges who make this annual event a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the justice system.
Students opting for the Alternative format may submit their Opening and Closing statements any time before the end of the academic year. Lawyer volunteers will provide feedback on the participants’ arguments based on their professional experience and their reading of the case scenario. Awards for top submissions may be distributed as determined by each OOCMT organizing committee.