Bar News - October 5, 2007
A ‘Dressing’ Down
The Sept. 7 edition of the Bar News included the article, “You’re Wearing THAT? Tips from an image consultant.”
Are you serious?
Dare I say that the Bar News undercuts its credibility by publishing such a tacky, shallow article, which seemed more appropriate for Cosmopolitan magazine than an industry-related publication? Thanks for the tips, but no thanks.
I humbly subscribe to the Working Parents List of Essential Things to Do in the Morning: 1. Shower; 2. Wear reasonably clean clothes (without baby spit-up or worse); and 3. Zip your zipper (and wear underwear in case you forget.)
Rorie E.P. Hollenberg
Editor’s Note: Even though we published the article, we don’t necessarily adhere to its advice. This editor’s list of “essential things” for the morning is even shorter than yours (credit a Gary Larsen cartoon): “First Socks, Then Shoes.”
Don’t Drop, Fix the Mock Trial Program
Editor’s Note: Please see article by NHBA President Eleanor Dahar on page 10 providing perspective on the Bar Association’s reprioritization of its Law Related Education programs.
I am writing this article in regards to the New Hampshire Bar’s decision to substantially curtail its involvement with the Mock Trial Program: DROPPING MOCK TRIAL: GOOD INTENTIONS, BAD RESULTS.
I was saddened and surprised by the information on the Bar’s Web site and the Union Leader article indicating a decision by the New Hampshire Bar Association to substantially withdraw its guidance and supervision of the Mock Trial program. It has been something near and dear to me for years. While I commend the New Hampshire Bar Association for addressing the issue of “gamesmanship” and “combative trial tactics” at the state Mock Trial competitions in recent years, the withdrawal of most of the Bar’s involvement and sponsorship is the wrong decision. As a former Mock Trial student, volunteer judge, and a current lawyer-coach, I have seen this issue from all sides.
In the early 1990s, I was a student at Milford High School. Our case was a criminal DWI matter. Our prosecution team fabricated a fake driving record for the defendant (including a “True Copy, Attest” stamp and all!) that was not part of the trial materials. We used it at trial to show that the defendant was a habitual traffic offender. The other side was completely stunned and demoralized. Coincidentally, we ended up advancing to the national competition that year. Sure, we won [the state competition]; but our actions were petty, juvenile, and in violation of the spirit of learning and fair play that is central to the Mock Trial program.
Since then, the Bar has modified the Mock Trial rules in order to eliminate such problems, including sanctioning teams that engage in discourteous behavior or other actions. However, such rules are rarely enforced or even mentioned as a caution to the teams that deserve it. There are three examples that I see often:
(1) Expert witnesses who rambled for minutes on end in response to a “yes or no” cross-examination question to intentionally waste the other team’s time;
(2) Producing photographs and other exhibits that were not included in the case materials that carried substantial evidentiary value; and
(3) a “brain-damaged” Plaintiff who had selective amnesia only when being cross-examined.
I could continue, but you get the point. In order to retain the educational purpose of Mock Trial, to retain a challenging competition, and set good-natured competition above winning, I would suggest the following:
(A) Restore the Bar’s involvement, coordination, and supervision of the Mock Trial Competition. Even with the enormous effort of all the dedicated volunteers, the program needs the Bar’s guidance and assistance in order to realistically continue;
(B) Modify the rules so that the team with the most points doesn’t necessarily advance to the national competition. The method of selecting the team could include picking a team in the top 1/3 of contenders, based on points earned in competition, professionalism, and which team would “best represent the spirit of the State of New Hampshire” Let California or New York field a team of haughty, snide punks, but not us;
(C) Supplement the rules with provisions similar to those of the Rules of Professional Conduct which would elevate the courtesy and nobility of the profession over the “winner-takes-all” aspect of the competition.
The members of the bench and bar who sponsor, volunteer, and participate in the Mock Trial have a responsibility to improve the quality of the competition. I personally want to see a Mock Trial competition of which we can all be proud. We, as professionals, have a duty to educate the kids on the right way to present a court trial. I mean, isn’t that the whole point of Mock Trial in the first place?
KING HENRY V: “...for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.”
Todd H. Prevett
Student, Volunteer Judge, and Lawyer-Coach,
Hollis-Brookline High School
Nancy Hilliard and Jennifer Given,
Teacher-Coaches, Hollis Brookline High School
Steve F. Hyde, Volunteer Judge, Portsmouth