University News

Local Middle School Students Participate in Discovering Justice Mock Trial

Published: December 23, 2021 | Categories: All News, Law
Statue of Lady Justice

Western New England University (WNE) School of Law students and several alumni had the honor of mentoring students from four greater Springfield area schools as they prepared and argued a case regarding a student's First Amendment right to free speech in U.S. District Court.

Groups of students from each school, which included John J. Duggan Academy, Kiley Middle School, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts (PVPA) charter school, and The Springfield Renaissance School, participated in a ten-week, mock trial class culminating in a live simulated mock trial event held at the federal courthouse in Springfield on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.

The Mock Trial Program is designed and run by Discovering Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides civics programming for grades K-12. Middle schoolers meet weekly with a team of legal mentors (attorneys or laws students who volunteer their time) to explore the judicial system, learn case analysis and development, and practice civic skills needed to persuasively argue their case in front of a judge. The program allows students to grapple with real constitutional issues, develop persuasive arguments, and practice questioning and examining witnesses.

Each school's team was mentored by a group of volunteers from the local legal community. Ten WNE School of Law students, participated in the program as legal mentors, with five mentoring students from Duggan Academy and five working with students from Kiley Middle School. PVPA students were mentored by attorneys from Bulkley, Richardson, and Gelinas, LLP in Springfield. These mentors included Hon. Mary-Lou Rup (Ret.), Senior Counsel to Bulkley, Richardson, and Gelinas, LLP  (L'78) and Lisa N. Harty, M.D., Esq. (L'20). Attorneys from Community Legal Aid and the Central West Justice Center mentored students from The Springfield Renaissance School.

Other notable alumni included The Hon. Mark Mastroianni (L'89) and Hon. Katherine A. Robertson (L'90) who served as judges for two of the mock trials. Maggie Solis, Esq. (L'07), clerk to Judge Mastroianni, helped to coordinate the event.

School of Law alumni also participated as jurors, including Laura A. Fisher, Esq. ( L'15), Assistant Dean of Law Career Services, Kaitlin Pomeroy-Murphy, Esq. (L'18), Assistant Director of Law Career Services and Public Interest Coordinator, Jessica Marcellino, Esq.  (L'12), Staff Attorney for WNE School of Law’s Center for Social Justice, Carole Lynch of Morrison Mahoney, LLP, and Jennifer Rymarski of Morrison Mahoney, LLP.

While verdicts were announced in each of the courtrooms, mock appeals are scheduled for the Spring 2022, giving students an even closer look at how the legal system operates.

The University partnership with Discovering Justice began in 2014.