Members of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School's Mock Trial Team marked a milestone this past January.
The RFH Plaintiffs prevailed against the team from Manasquan High School in the case of Capella vs. Petzicon, Inc. to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since current advisor Bob Galante took over the reins five years ago. Yet as exciting as this win proved to be, it was viewed as just the icing on the cake for team members.
"You get to see the real-life implications of all types of cases, and you could also discover which legal track interests you the most," said senior Anna Marchese.
RFH senior Ellie Halfacre, who joined as a freshman, reflected the collective mindset when she noted that the Mock Trial meetings are just as instructive and enjoyable as the competitions.
"People are aware of the Mock Trial competitions, but they don't realize that there are a lot of social aspects to this activity as well," she said.
"Mock Trial is like the ultimate group project because you rely on one another so much, and while we are always striving to improve we really do have a lot of fun," junior Matt Sheehan said.
Mock Trial competitions are held at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold and are presided over by real-life judges who offer constructive criticism as well as verdicts.
The cases are based on actual litigation, with the names of the parties changed for privacy purposes. In the Mock Trial case of Capella vs. Petzicon, Inc., the owner of a show dog sued a pet care corporation after she claimed that the use of their flea powder led to the dog's demise.
RFH students acted as lawyers for both the show dog owner and the pet care corporation. The defense had the job of arguing that the plaintiff's claim for $500,000 in damages was too high. Previous years' cases have included a hate crime, a kidnapping, and an auto accident blamed on texting while driving.
According to the participating students, the real-life courtroom experience is invaluable.
"Nothing you learn in the classroom compares with the experience of preparing your case and speaking in front of an actual judge," junior Tom Miller said.