OSWEGO, NY – Hear ye hear ye.
All persons having business before this court may now draw near give their attendance and they shall be heard.
High school students in grades 9-12 will be hearing that phrase in the coming months in courtrooms throughout the Oswego County.
These students will be part of the 2008-09 Oswego County Mock Trial Program.
Preparations have begun in earnest around the county with every high school committing to field a team this year according to Thomas Benedetto, Esq. who is the county coordinator of the program for the local bar association.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve had great success with this program over the past few years,” he said.
Approximately 75 students participated in the tournament last year, with teams from APW, Central Square, Hannibal, Mexico, Pulaski, and Sandy Creek.
This yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s program promises to be even bigger and better.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have a commitment from each of the nine schools to field a teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦that is simply magnificent,” Benedetto said.
This annual competition gives students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to further their understanding of the law, court procedures, and our legal system in a hands-on environment.
In the process, students work on honing their speaking, listening, reading, and reasoning skills.
This program is part of a statewide initiative sponsored by the New York State Bar Association.
The local program is organized by volunteers from the Oswego County Bar Association.
Benedetto credits the students, but also their teachers, as well as the attorney and judges who volunteer their time to work with the students.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe students must take a lot of the credit, but I am especially grateful to all of the judges and lawyers who help make this program possible,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Students on each team dedicated about 5 hours per week, on average, from January through March working on preparing for the tournament.
The program starts with a county-wide assembly.
The students attend a welcome reception at the County Building, and then observe a mock trial exercise held at the County Courthouse.
This yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s event will be held on Dec. 12.
Each team is made up of eight or more student members.
They are paired with lawyers from the Oswego County Bar Association who volunteer their time to work with the students to help prepare them for the trial competitions which start in February.
Students must plan their own case based on the guidelines in the materials provided by the law, Youth and Citizenship Program of the New York State Bar Association.
On average each team has 5 or more trials before one team will ultimately be crowned county champs.
The winning team receives scholarships from finds donated by the Oswego County Bar Association, as well as several area law firms, attorneys and individual supporters.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI know from speaking with many of the students over the past few years who have participated that they find it not only challenging, but very enjoyable and rewarding. I’m so very ecstatic that the school officials regard this program so highly,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Benedetto said.
Teams are filling up fast, so all students in grades 9-12 are encouraged to sign up.
However, students from Phoenix, Fulton and Oswego are especially needed so that those schools will be able to compete this year.
Interested students should speak with their schoolÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s mock trial advisor, or high school principal, for more information.