Miami STREET LAW Coaches High School Mock Trial Team to Success


Since early January, Miami STREET LAW Hoeveler Fellow Annery Pulgar Alfonso, 3L, and interns Marisol Vilasuso, 3L, and Daniel Goggin, 2L, went to Hialeah High School to help coach the school's Mock Trial Team for the Miami-Dade County High School Mock Trial Competition on February 24th and 25th.

For eight weeks, the Street Lawyers attended the team's weekly practices and helped them with their direct and cross examinations, opening and closing statements, objections, and introduction of evidence and impeachment procedures. In preparation for the competition, the Street Lawyers organized a practice trial, which was held at the law school on February 19th. Four volunteer judges – Craig Leen, Assistant County Attorney for the City of Coral Gables, Professor Paula Arias, Director of the International Moot Court Program, and two of her Moot Court Board members, Lisa Nagele, 2L, and Kevin Huber, 2L – provided advice and guidance.

At the 2011 Miami-Dade County High School Mock Trial Competition, each team competed in four rounds, trying the case of Young v. Gardner, a civil lawsuit claiming negligence on the part of the defendant who was allegedly sending text messages while driving. Each team tried the case as the defendant and plaintiff twice during the competition.

On the morning of the second day of the competition, the Hialeah students were trying the case on side of the plaintiff. Terra Environmental Research Institute's Mock Trial Team played the role of opposing counsel. A key moment during the trial was when opposing counsel tried to get a text message record into evidence. Hialeah knew all the correct objections and supporting arguments and convinced the judges not to allow the document into evidence. This was the pivotal point that showed the team's hard work and preparation.

In the afternoon, Hialeah competed against William H. Turner Technical Arts High School. The trial went very smoothly. Hialeah did a great job making objections, catching the other team's slip-ups and maintaining their composure even when faced with difficult witnesses. Hialeah took every opportunity to point out the weaknesses of the other side's case. All the while, they acted respectfully and professionally.

Hialeah was one of three undefeated teams and moved on to compete in the semi-finals. "When the announcement of the semi-finalists came that afternoon, it came as no surprise that Hialeah had been undefeated and I could not have been more proud," said Goggin. Vilasuso added, "Hialeah High's Mock Trial team is the classiest and most dedicated team I have ever seen. They are true champions, no matter what the competition results in."

On March 4, 2011, Hialeah High's Mock Trial Team headed down to the Miami-Dade County Courthouse to compete in the High School Mock Trial competition semi-finals. As the plaintiff, Hialeah competed against the team from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, where they ultimately lost the competition in very close trial against Our Lady of Lourdes.

"I am very proud of the team and I am so thrilled to have been a part of this journey," said Pulgar Alfonso. "I respect and admire Ms. Soto and her students very much and I am so amazed by their dedication, commitment, and outstanding performances," she added.

The team's coach, Ms. Ana Soto said she is "very proud of the team. This is the second time in 20 years that Hialeah High's Mock Trial Team makes it to the semi-finals and the first time that the team moves on after winning all four rounds." She added that "the Street Lawyers were instrumental to our success."