December 5th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The top middle school mock trial participants in the state will gather at the Iowa Events Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6th through the 8th, to compete in the Twenty-ninth Annual Iowa Middle School Mock Trial State Tournament. The Iowa Mock Trial Program is presented by The Iowa State Bar Association Center for Law & Civic Education with the support of the ISBA Young Lawyer’s Division and the Iowa State Bar Foundation. This year more than 1,700 middle school students from throughout Iowa participated in the competition, the largest middle school mock trial program in the nation. Among them are students from the: Carroll, Harlan and Kuemper Catholic School Districts.

In a mock trial, students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses as they prepare and present both sides of a hypothetical legal problem. Practicing attorneys serve as judges who decide the case on the legal merits and who also assess student performances as attorneys and as witnesses. Participants are given a hands-on opportunity to examine the legal process and current legal issues. Mock trials also help students develop important critical thinking skills and aid in the development of fundamental research, preparation and presentation skills. This year’s Middle School problem deals with the issues of negligence and defamation.

The 34 teams of students advanced to the state competition based upon their performances at regional tournaments throughout the state earlier this month. The students will compete in three rounds of competition on Thursday and Friday, with the top four teams advancing to a semi-final round on Saturday morning, at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building.

The championship round features the semi-final winners presenting the final case starting at 1:30 p.m. in the Supreme Court Chambers of the Iowa Judicial Branch. A special awards program honoring all 34 teams, naming the top ten teams and recognizing individual “outstanding attorneys” and “outstanding witnesses” will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 at the Veteran’s Memorial Convention Center in downtown Des Moines.