Thursday, May 28, 2015

Moot Court vs. Mock Trial – What’s the Difference?

Mock trial, moot court – two competitions and two high-school-team winners. Do you know the difference between these two programs?

Mock Trial

A “mock” trial means a trial acted out by students as if they were trying a case before a judge or jury. Students play all parts in the trial as attorneys, clients, and witnesses. Opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments are all part of the mock trial.
In March, 300 high school students from 32 teams competed in a three-day mock trial event. At the 32nd Annual High School Mock Trial Competition, Westerville North High School defeated Ashland High School. Westerville North, by the way, continued in the competition to place 10th at the National High School Mock Trial Championship earlier this month. Congratulations, Westerville North!
Moot Court
The word moot means “in dispute,” and this program differs from portrayal of a trial because it allows students to act as attorneys for an appeal.
The moot court experience lets students handle an appeal of a simulated case that has already been tried. A losing party to a case always has the right to appeal to one of the 12 appellate courts in Ohio, and a panel of three judges will make a decision based on the written papers (briefs) and the oral arguments of the attorneys. There are no witnesses, just the attorneys arguing their legal positions to the judges. 
The student-lawyers in moot court argue for the appellant (who wants reversal) or the appellee (who wants the decision affirmed.) Springfield High School students recently won the second annual Moot Court Competition where more than 100 students representing 16 high schools across Ohio appeared before a panel of judges and lawyers and argued their cases as appellate attorneys.  Hooray, Springfield!
The Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE) sponsors these programs and hosts the civic competitions for students.  Teachers should know that younger students can benefit from studying the court system as well. OCLRE has started hosting a middle school mock trial showcase where students learn about the roles of judges, attorneys, and witnesses from classic books read in school when they act out the characters in a legal setting.
The Ohio Supreme Court supports OCLRE along with the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and the Ohio State Bar Association.


Friday, May 15, 2015

iCivics Website Unveiled

Former senator and astronaut John Glenn and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor teamed up to launch iCivics Ohio and just unveiled a new website designed to bring students up to speed on civic education.

Glenn and Justice O’Connor are concerned with lack of knowledge students have about government and citizenship. The website makes sure civic education isn’t an afterthought for schools and their students.
Ohio students will have the opportunity to access digital civic-education lesson plans made specifically for teachers.

As you may know, I’m an iCivics representative for the state of Ohio, so this program is very near and dear to my heart.
Please click HERE to read more about the website. And leave a comment below if you have any questions about the program.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What is a Crime?

Every state has its own answer.  In Ohio, a crime is defined as specific conduct that is subject to punishment either as a felony or misdemeanor – either for doing something forbidden (such as murder or theft) or for not doing something required (such as failing to register as a sex offender).

People are expected to know what a crime is so they know how society expects them to behave. Generally, crimes in Ohio are set forth as laws – called “statutes” in Title 29 of the Ohio Revised Code – but these statutes are not always easy to read and understand. 

The 130th General Assembly recognized this and created the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, a special 24-member committee to work on a comprehensive plan for revising criminal laws. Judge Fred Pepple of Auglaize County Common Pleas has been elected Chair and Tim Young of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office as Vice-Chair. Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appointed me to be a member of this committee.
On May 7, 2015, the committee held its first meeting.  Am. Sub. H.B. 483 instructs us to study current criminal statutes  and  recommend Ohio’s Criminal Code with the goal of “enhancing public safety and the administration of criminal justice.”  We are to complete our work by August 2016.  It is a big and important project, and if the job is done well, changes will be recommended to make our criminal laws fairer and simpler to read and understand.