The elimination round of the Northern Mariana Islands mock trial high school competition started yesterday as it celebrates its 20th year of organizing students in public and private schools from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to prepare legal cases that they can present as a team in front of a judge and jury.
The competition will end in the championship round today at 3pm at the Supreme Court courtroom, presided by Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
The CNMI Mock Trial Program is sponsored by the Judiciary, Public School System, and the CNMI Bar Association.
It is a law-related education experience designed to increase student’s critical thinking, improve public speaking skills, and enhance their comprehension of the American system of justice, said mock trial coordinator Deanna Ogo.
“The program provides a challenging and interactive academic competition and a fun way of introducing students to our legal system,” she said.
Board of Education associate commissioner Jackie Quitugua said this exercise teaches students how the judicial system works.
“This will give the kids the opportunity to improve on integrated skills such as communication skills, negotiation, comprehension, research, questioning strategies, and the most important part is fostering relationships, as we need the children to work well with others,” she said.
“We believe that these children are very innovative and creative and I want the kids to shock me in a way to provoke my thinking and see things in a different perspective, where in I can say ‘that’s a great solution that the students thought of and I didn’t.’ So we want our students to shine like diamonds during this exercise,” she added.
The students began their preparations months before. This required them to stay in school after instructional hours and some weekends to work with their coaches.
This is the third year that Christian Murante, a junior at Saipan Southern High School, has joined the mock trial competition.
“Every time I join is always a thrill as there is both excitement and nervousness involved. The experience has allowed me to have clarity on what I want to do as a career as this inspires me get a juris doctorate and developed logical thinking that I apply in many aspects of life,” he said.
“Mock trial has made me a team player, knowing how to communicate with others, express what I think and how I present myself in public. There are many things that I learned from my teammates, teacher and attorney coaches,” he added.
Attorney coach Robby Glass uses his personal time to volunteer and prepare his team.
“This my second year coaching and the fulfillment each time is great as we direct the students to be familiar with legal procedures such as direct and cross examination and entering evidence. Some of them don’t know anything about the court system or how anything works and this is about them learning too and not just about the competition because this help them to develop as individuals as well,” he said.
“Believe it or not but there are some students here that are better attorneys. They are fantastic as they craft these openings and closings… As coaches, we learn just as much teaching and coaching,” he added.
The school that will win this year’s mock trial competition will represent the CNMI at the National School Mock Trial Championship on May10-12, 2018, in Reno, Nevada.