SMC hosts mock trial summer camp
Martha Reilly | Wednesday, August 26, 2015
This summer, Saint Mary’s associate professor of communication studies Michael Kramer and Notre Dame law student Chase Hundman taught eight high school students about courtroom procedures during a week-long camp on Saint Mary’s campus.
“We tried to give some exposure to all the different parts of a trial,” Kramer said. “Something that’s made to look really easy on TV is a lot more complicated in real life.”
The students reenacted what a real civil court case may have looked like, as they participated in a mock trial during a showcase at the end of the week.
According to Kramer, the camp focused on a specific case that involved filmmaker Kelley Wilson, who sued Disney for copyright infringement because of similarities between her short film “The Snowman” and the trailer for Disney’s “Frozen.”
Kramer said to simulate the courtroom process most accurately, he and Hundman gave each student a role, allowing everyone to play different parts in the trial process.
“We had a team of students representing Kelley Wilson and a team of students representing Disney,” Kramer said. “One of the students played a judge ruling on the objection. We wanted to make sure that everyone did something.”
He said the camp clarified some of the media’s false portrayals of courtroom procedures and increased students’ awareness of the events that take place during a trial.
“I think they were able to get more of a real world sense of how a courtroom procedure goes,” Kramer said. “We see a lot of it on TV and in film, but it’s not always the most realistic.”
Kramer said if granted the opportunity, he would hold the program again next summer to teach even more high school students about courtroom procedures. He said students learned many valuable skills but that one of the best parts was clarifying common misconceptions about the legal system through a demonstration.
“We talked about many different topics,” Kramer said. “The showcase where they actually did the parts of the trial went really well, and it was a lot of fun.”
According to Kramer, the summer program provided participants with new skills, such as coming up with evidence, dealing with objections and writing opening and closing statements.
“We tried to, as much as we could in the context of the camp, give them some real-life, hands-on type of experience,” Kramer said. “The students seemed to enjoy it a lot.”
Kramer said the success of this year’s summer program suggests that the experience heightened the participants’ awareness of the legal system.
“Students with experience in mock trial or in the law are interested in that system,” Kramer said. “There’s a natural curiosity that students have, even at a younger age, about how the courtroom operates and about how these cases work their way through it and get decided.”