Middle school mock trial teams from throughout the state are in Columbia this weekend for the annual statewide competition.
The competition is hosted by the South Carolina Bar, which provides the issue that teams are to debate.
“All the schools at both the middle school and the high school level are given the same problem which consists of six witness affidavits and numerous supporting items such as exhibits,” York County criminal defense attorney and team coach Gary Lemel said. “Each team then has to take that evidence and craft the case.”
Each team is responsible for presenting both sides over the course of the competition. In the case of the middle schools, the team has to be prepared to present both a full plaintiff’s civil case and a full defense case in different rounds.
Middle school winners receive a statewide trophy. The Fort Mill middle school team, which Lemel coaches, won last year’s event. The high school competition will be in February. The winner qualifies to compete in the national mock trial competition.
Lemel is a former mock trial participant.
“That’s how I started and it directly led to my service as an attorney,” he said. “There are a number of attorneys here in York County who got their start with the local mock trial programs.”
“South Carolina is considered one of the best states nationally for their mock trial program. We’ve had teams out of this state who won national championships and are highly competitive at the national level,” said Lemel. “We all take it very seriously. It’s as competitive as any sport in this state if it doesn’t get quite the publicity.”
Lemel said mock trial experience looks impressive on a college application or a resume.
“It is the sort of activity that many colleges and law schools look for,” he said.