The Mock Trial team at work.
Tricia Nell ’97
Courtroom drama plays out under expert jurisdiction
Most college professors would frown upon students shouting “Objection!” in the middle of class. However, for St. Norbert’s first-ever Mock Trial team, it is only to be encouraged.
The team’s nine members – Patty Brehm ’10, Dillon Raunio ’10, Nicole Petrarca ’10, Emily Kapszukiewicz ’10, Keenan Rogers ’11, Jay Lonick ’12, Jay Crawford ’12, Leah Tabbert ’12, Cara Rice ’12 and Larissa Dallman ’13 – met twice a week for 12 weeks this academic year, earning two credits in the course of preparation for the American Mock Trial Association’s 2010 Milwaukee Regional Tournament. Acting as attorneys and witnesses in a fictitious murder case, the team experienced its first two wins in the regional competition, held at Marquette University Feb. 20-21.
"It was something new and interesting to study,” says Brehm. She will put the experience to practical use at Valparaiso University School of Law this fall but emphasizes that the class isn’t only for aspiring lawyers. “For any St. Norbert College student, it’s a great opportunity to hone critical thinking and public speaking skills.”
Some notable coaches make it so. Trial attorney Tricia Nell ’97 of Green Bay firm Liebmann, Conway, Olejniczak and Jerry S.C., Brown County circuit judge Marc Hammer (Business Administration) and Charley Jacobs (Political Science) infused the course, and especially the team’s courtroom role-playing, with real-world perspective.
“These kids are learning exactly what trial attorneys learn when they go to trial. They’re getting real-life teaching instead of just getting lectured,” says Nell. After she and Hammer covered the basics of legal procedures early in the year, class time was spent with furniture rearranged to mimic a courtroom – and with Hammer presiding as judge.
“This is an opportunity where the kids get to see how a course of study really is expressed away from the college,” says Hammer, who has taught business law at the college for 15 years.
The Mock Trial students impressed both Nell and Hammer with their hard work and insight. “This isn’t an after-school activity. It’s more than that for these kids,” Hammer says. “These kids are bright kids, and they ask tough questions – as good as lawyers or better.”
“Because it’s a smaller class, we get a chance to interact with our instructors as well as our classmates,” Brehm says.
That interaction has yielded a polished team poised for future tournaments. Says Nell, “I can’t wait for next year.”
The Mock Trial team is sponsored by Liebmann, Conway, Olejniczak and Jerry, S.C., Hanaway Ross Law Firm and the Brown County Bar Association.