RHS Students Conduct Mock Trials Before Judges at Morris County Courthouse


Tayler Cantara

Mock Trial and Criminal Justice students conduct a live mock trial before a judge at the Morris County Courthouse on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Taylor Cantara, Staff Reporter

Students in the Mock Trial club and Criminal Justice classes had the honor of conducting live mock trials before superior court judges in courtrooms at the Morris County Courthouse on Friday, March 10.

“I thought the courthouse field trip was an amazing opportunity for the students in the Mock Trial club and Criminal Justice classes,” said senior Sydney Dickman, the president of the Mock Trial club. “I have never experienced such amazing and professional Mock Trial performances. All students who participated during the trial overachieved beyond anything we all could have asked for.”

Morris County Superior Court Judges David Ironson and Frank DeAngelis had invited the students to visit the courthouse, so they could get an inside look at the workings of a courtroom, present their rehearsed court cases in an authentic setting and receive expert feedback.

“Events like this allow students to see a day in the life of professionals in the field and help them to build networking relationships,” said Justin Matyas, who teaches Criminal Justice at the high school. “I feel as though immersing the students in real world experiences is the best way to prepare and introduce them to a potential career of interest.”

As Matyas explained, his Criminal Justice students had three weeks to prepare for their mock trial. They spent the time engaging with their team members and completing worksheets to help guide them. After students finished preparing, they were tasked with creating a Google document and completing their role-specific assignments, working up until the day of the field trip.

Dickman said that the members of the Mock Trial club started preparing in the month of January, attending two to three weekly lunch meetings, so they could collaborate on documents they would need for the mock trial.

On the day of the trip, students dressed in proper court attire, wearing suits or blouses and blazers. Once at the courthouse, they participated in the mock trials as either lawyers or witnesses, after which they received feedback from the judges in order to gain a better understanding of courtroom proceedings.

The Criminal Justice students were assigned to criminal mock trials; New Columbia v Archer, Illinois v Buckley and Walker v Brewster. Mock Trial members conducted a civil case led by club advisor Stephanie Jennis, who also teaches English at the high school.

The trip concluded with two probation officers educating students about their courtroom duties and what someone under probation might experience.

“I had a great experience, and I really enjoyed my time at the Morris County Courthouse,” Criminal Justice student Lia Carroll said.

“In my opinion, the experience went tremendously well as the judge commended the students on their performances and preparation,” Matyas said. “I also noticed lots of positive feedback from students, with some even asking for another mock trial case.”

“The experience was absolutely incredible,” Jennis said.  “It was so interesting to see the students’ enthusiasm as they saw the historic courtroom, took their places as future lawyers as well as jury members and rose to the occasion.”