YLHS Mock Trial Spotlight

This water fountain greets visitors to the LA County Courthouse, where mock trial competitions are held. This year, however, the mock trial competitions will be virtual over Zoom.


This water fountain greets visitors to the LA County Courthouse, where mock trial competitions are held. This year, however, the mock trial competitions will be virtual over Zoom.

Sharon Sun, Photojournalist

Many high school students dream of entering the legal field. However, the rosey picture of passing the Bar Exam and entering the beckoning gates of law school is dampened by one fact — this stage is years away, and still after the daunting steps of undergraduate education. Yet, students aspiring to enter the law field may be happy to hear that a program here on campus emulates the same environment and case format as the adults have in a real courthouse, allowing high schoolers to have a taste of a case. This is Yorba Linda High Mock Trial.

Mock Trial at Yorba Linda is performed as a team. The team is split in a fashion that mirrors court procedures in real court. There is a defense side, which is aimed at fending off the charges — the accusations pointed towards a defendant, the accused — in court. As a counterpart, there is also a prosecution side, which attempts to reinforce these charges against the defendant. 

These separate sides are divided into further roles, broadly categorized as trial attorneys, witnesses, pretrial attorneys, and clerk and bailiff. A case — that is, a fictional court case created by the competition organizers to be used in the competition — is released around the middle of September, about a month and a half from when the county competition officially begins. 

The case can contain complex information, typically being upwards of a hundred pages long. The majority of the packet is a rule book outlining the rules, procedures, complexities and clarifications of the competition, but the most important sections for team members are the witness statements, objections, pretrial statements, pretrial cases, and exhibits.

The different roles of Mock Trial have vastly different responsibilities. The team clerk monitors the time and issues time alerts and warnings to both sides. The bailiff ushers witnesses up to the witness stand and requests for witnesses to take an oath to give an honest statement — this step happens in real life too. 

Witnesses are required to memorize the witness testimonies given to them in the case packet and work with their paired trial attorneys to write up questions that will be asked to the witnesses before a judge in court in order to highlight certain areas of a testimony. Lastly, two pretrial attorneys, one for either side, work to debate the pretrial case. The unique pretrial case occurs before the actual trial and determines whether or not a specific piece of evidence within the case should be kept in the actual trial according to the Constitution.

The hard work of the Mock Trial team all culminates in the county’s Mock Trial Competition, which takes place in an actual courthouse, before actual judges, and pits Yorba Linda High’s prosecution and defense teams against the other prosecution and defense sides of various schools in the county. 

Amber Han (12) captains Yorba Linda’s prosecution side, a Mock Trial veteran on her fourth year with the program. Despite initial uncertainty in entering the program, Amber grew to enjoy the atmosphere of the courthouse. “The presence being in the courtroom was terrifying, yet addicting, and I wanted to continue that ever since,” she says. 

“The process of assembling our cases is tiring each and every time, but reaping what we sow in competition is the most satisfying thing for everyone.” Amber comments on the cooperative spirit of Mock Trial: “We laugh together, smile together, and get angry together as a team — it’s especially fun.”

This year, the Mock Trial team will have their first competition round virtually over Zoom on November 2. Fitted with experienced returners and hopeful newcomers, the team is eager to achieve and find success among some of the best teams in the county.