“All Rise”: Woodbridge High’s Mock Trial Team Heads to Court

Woodbridge High’s mock trial team enters competition season, hoping to make a comeback after two years in a virtual setting


Ocean Pham

Mock trial members Arman Nemati, Natalie Miller, Ashna Parekh, Siyun Ke and Kailey Moore (left to right) stand up to introduce their opening statement during a practice session at Woodbridge High.

After two full seasons of virtual competitions, the Woodbridge High Mock Trial team finally transitioned back to their in-person performances at the Santa Ana Courthouse, while bringing forth their collaboration throughout the season.

During the pandemic, the team had to adapt to Zoom competitions as well as the last minute adjustments accompanying the virtual format.

Coming back for an in-person competition season, the team quickly found their place in the courtroom and presented their best selves to the judge. In addition to the two wins against Valencia Gold High and Brea Olinda High, the team also received 16 individual nominations, demonstrating their outstanding performances during the trial.

However, the result did not come without consistent commitment and hard work. Throughout their competition season, the team meets three times a week, averaging an intensive practice schedule of more than ten hours.

“It’s time consuming,” freshman Zahra Bakhshi said. “Because [mock trial] isn’t happening at school, you have to get time outside of school, which is really [difficult].”

Aside from the rigorous practice schedule, coming up with arguments on the spot poses another critical challenge, especially in cross examination.

Mock trial is not only a simulation of a trial where individuals defend their side in the case, but is also a demonstration of the ample team effort that is required in order to present the best case. To prepare for a case, each member of the team is tasked with conducting extensive research on the case background, characters and propose strong arguments supported by evidence.

“No matter how much you rehearse your material in practice, you can never anticipate exactly what the other team is going to do or how the judge will rule on certain matters,” junior and co-captain Natalie Miller said. “For witnesses, it’s striking the perfect balance of being argumentative but also responsive on cross; for trial attorneys, it’s making objections or communicating with witnesses on redirect; for pretrial attorneys, it’s answering the judge’s questions.”

Mock trial captains Natalie Miller, Ashna Parekh and Arman Nemati (left to right) pose for a picture inside the In-N-Out Burger after celebrating their recent victory against Brea Olinda High’s Team B.

As one of the co-captains of the mock trial team, Miller is also responsible for coordinating logistics, leading practices, previewing materials and providing critiques for performances.

Over time, the team began to bond like a family that provides unconditional support for each other. From the joy of winning a trial to making thoughtful critiques after performances, the team has made countless memories along the way.

“It’s hard to pick just one [memory],” Miller said. “From the summer practices just last year…we had to do a simple task while narrating our actions; I vividly remember one of our captains from last year yelling as she slammed a trash can on the ground.”

Besides her favorite moments at practice, Miller also recalled one of the team’s murder trials which happened to involve a snake, a weed-dealing victim and a herpetologist. Being able to reenact scenes for the case adds another stroke of joy to mock trial.

Among many bonding traditions, the team unanimously noted that going to In-N-Out Burger after competitions was their favorite activity to debrief their performance.

Moreover, senior Siyun Ke also highlighted that the team’s rookies were all able to make substantial improvements throughout the season.

“It’s honestly kind of amazing watching our witnesses compete on the stand from where I’m sitting and you can see how professional they are,” Ke said. “I’m so proud of them.”

In addition to mastering public speaking, knowing the proper eye contact, body language and dynamic volumes on stage, experience in mock trials also offers lifelong skills that are beneficial beyond one’s academic career.

Senior Siyun Ke passionately presents her opening statement during mock practice, rehearsing her lines for the People v. Franks case. (Huan)

“It definitely tests your memorization skills and prepares you for any time you need to act on the spot,” sophomore Viti Novichkova said. “[Hand gestures] show how confident you are. If you’re giving a presentation or speech for a class, [mock trial] can make it a lot easier because we’ve already given it before.”

Finally, Ke encourages other prospective Woodbridge High students to join the team.

“I would really highly encourage [students] to join…I’ve met so many of my closest friends on the team,” Ke said. “Our community is so supportive of one another and we’re constantly helping each other improve in any way we can.”

For more information about the 2023-2024 mock trial season, reach out to: [email protected].