Last Saturday, in the break after the final mock trial of the NH state championships, while we were waiting for the judges’ decision, one of the coaches from the other team told me that she believed the Exeter kids had cheated. They had cheated, she said, by taping her team’s Friday evening trial and then using the tape to copy her team’s questions in the final trial. I fished out my copy of the rules, and noted that there was no rule against taping, only a rule prohibiting taping to which the other team objected. Had her kids objected? There was also a rule requiring that all rules violations be raised in the trial in question. Had her kids done that in the trial in question? It was an ugly moment, but one that I hoped would pass.
It did not pass. I learned on Monday that the defeated team’s coaches had requested from the state mock trial coordinator a “dispute resolution form.” This suggested they intended to file an appeal. This threat colored the entire week: I had to tell people that there was an “asterisk” over our state mock trial victory.
The losing team did file an appeal, about five pm on Thursday. In their appeal document, the losing team’s coaches alleged not only the taping/copying violation, but also that we had violated the rule against costuming and, in a trial involving another team, the rule against passing notes. The losing team coaches asked that the state coordinator take away the Exeter team’s state title so that the other team, not Exeter, would represent New Hampshire in the 2012 national championship. They even asked that Exeter not be allowed to participate in the 2013 mock trial state championship.
I went to work immediately, asking my kids for help with the facts, regarding the taping, the alleged copying, the notebook incident. It was very much like being back in a law firm, assigned to write a short brief overnight. Although I drafted the document, it reflected substantial input and comment from the mock trial team; I was proud of the way in which my kids read the drafts carefully, caught errors and suggested improvements. I wished, in a way, that we had time to write the document in an even more collaborative way, so that I could talk with them about the choices involved: chronological or topical organization? respond to each point or let some pass? calm tone or outraged indignation? We submitted the document to the state coordinator the next day, Friday, at about one in the afternoon.
Yesterday evening, Saturday, we received the decision of the mock trial dispute resolution panel: we won. The decision was not as resounding as we might have hoped: for example, the panel did not determine that we had not copied the other team’s questions, but only that if we did, it would not have helped us much, because the other team would be ready for the questions, and they were the kind of questions that more or less any team would ask.
So, older and wiser, we prepare for the national championship in early May. We do not get the national case until April 1, so there is not much to be done before then. And, for the kids, they have finals this week and a two-week spring break after that. So a quiet time, I hope, from a mock trial perspective.