By Patricia Valeri-Tortis
On November 15, Students from Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School, Cathedral High School and St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School participated in the first Experiential Mock Trials at the John Sopinka Courthouse since 2019.
Student lawyers were able to put their legal skills into action by delivering opening and closing statements and asking questions of student witnesses in direct and cross examination. Students took on the roles of all the courtroom participants including judges, court services officers, court clerks and jury members.
“As always, this provided students with an authentic view of the criminal justice system, the preparation involved in a trial, as well as the many careers available in the justice sector,” said teacher Patricia Valeri-Tortis.
Bishop Ryan student Jake Connolly received the Collegiality Award presented by the Ontario Justice Education Network to the student who exemplifies respect and collegiality in the courtroom. In his role as a lawyer, Jake stayed calm and collected. He waited patiently for the judge to address him regarding objections he made, and he was very respectful to the court overall. These are the qualities that all court participants should embody in the courtroom.
During the last three years and despite the restrictions, the Hamilton Justice Education Network (HJEN) was still very active and provided virtual classroom visits by judges, lawyers and articling students to law classes from all over Hamilton. HJEN also facilitated courtroom observations of various proceedings (trials, guilty pleas, motions) on Zoom so students were able to see how the justice system pivoted to virtual hearings during the pandemic. However, students were thrilled to be back to the courthouse in person for this amazing experiential learning opportunity.
“Many thanks to the court staff and the legal community of Hamilton that welcomed and assisted our students in their mock trials, as well as the HJEN Committee for planning this event. A special thank you to our provincial partner OJEN (Ontario Justice Education Network) for their ongoing support. We will see you in the Spring!”
“Many thanks to Law teachers Dave Rimac (SJHN) and Sheri Civitareale and Alysa Di Leonardo (BR) for helping their students to prepare for mock trials.”