A row of photos from a recently-conducted mock trial.

 

The HBA Juvenile Justice Mock Trial Program has been serving students for 43 years. It continues to be one of the most successful HBA programs, reaching over 40,000 students since it began. The program was created by HBA Executive Director Kay Sim as a way for students to have a positive early experience with the courts, as well as learn about and participate in the legal process.

Students from the University of Houston Law Center, South Texas College of Law, and Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and the HBA education department work as a team and visit participating classes once each week during a five-week session, providing “hands-on” trial preparation.

 

Eighth grade students develop and prepare a mock trial, create a crime scenario, assume all roles involved, and perform the trial at the end of the session. The trial normally takes place in an actual Harris County courtroom, though because of flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the program is temporarily contained within the school.

The support of the Harris County judiciary has been an integral part to the success of this program. They give up their courtrooms for several hours four Friday mornings each year. The judges in each court allow the student “judges” to wear their robes, and many take a few moments to speak with the students before or after their trials.

 

Parents often attend the mock trials and many schools video the mock trials for later discussion.

Because of its longevity, students who participated in the Mock Trial Program as eighth graders have even returned to work in the program as law students. There are judges on Harris County benches who assisted in the program while they were law students.

 

To learn more about the mock trial program, contact Ashley Gagnon Steininger at (713) 759-1133 or ashleyg@hba.org.

A thank-you letter from a participant in mock trials, written to Ashley G. Steininger.

 

Click here to learn about other HBA school programs, including IDEA, Law Week, Teach Texas and more.