The Court Has Ruled: STM’s Legal Knights Are Victorious
By: Samantha Cumerlato
On March 27th, the St. Thomas More Legal Knights made STM history by competing in the Ontario Bar Association Regional Mock Trial Championship and winning first place. This is only the second year of competition for the Legal Knights. This regional win allowed STM to advance to the provincial level to compete with the top eight schools in Ontario and win a bronze medal.
Every year, the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) releases a mock trial case for high school law students to prepare and try in a court room setting. STM’s Legal Knights worked with coach and law teacher, Ms. Leone, to build strong cases for both the Crown and Defence. They also had the unique opportunity to work with Mr. Douglas Green and Mr. Branko Kurpis, lawyers from Sullivan Festeryga, a Hamilton law firm, to strengthen their arguments. Atia Bashizadah, a founding member of Legal Knights, said that the OBA’s Mock Trial competition was a “good way for students to understand and learn about the law and the Canadian legal system.”
In the months leading up to Regionals, the Legal Knights worked furiously preparing and tweaking their case, or “eating, sleeping and mock trialing,” according to their team shirts. The regional competition took place in Brantford and was a round-robin knock-out, meaning that each team faced each other once and the losing team in each round was eliminated. Schools from Brantford, Burlington, Guelph, Kitchener, and Simcoe participated. All teams had to prepare both Crown and Defence arguments, as they could be called upon to present either side.
STM faced a school from Guelph in its first trial and a coin toss determined that the Legal Knights would be the Crown. After winning this trial, they moved on to face a Halton school and took on the role of Crown once again. The Legal Knights emerged victorious for a second time and went on to compete against a veteran school from Brantford, a defending champion of the 2012 OBA Regional Mock Trial Championship and winner for four consecutive years. Because STM had presented the Crown’s argument twice, it was decided that the team would present the Defence for the final trial. Though the judge’s deliberations took quite a bit of time, the STM’s Legal Knights were declared the winner of the Regional Championship.
According to Atia Bashizadah, the mock trials demonstrated “…the power of a lawyer. When we were the Crown team, we got the accused convicted on all three charges, but when we were Defence we got them acquitted on all three charges.”
“This is our second year participating in the OBA competition and a ‘first’ for St. Thomas More Legal Knights to claim this top honour,” stated Ms. Leone. “The students worked long hours preparing months in advance for the case. We’re very proud of our students’ passion and enthusiasm for law. Their hard work has paid off.”
Fresh from their regional victory, the Legal Knights returned to STM to prepare for the Provincial Championship, which took place in Toronto on April 17th and 18th. Competition between the top eight schools in the province was fierce and STM’s Legal Knights emerged with an impressive third place finish, thereby earning the bronze medal.
Congratulations to the Legal Knights and Ms. Leone for their amazing performance at the 2013 OBA Mock Trial Championship. Best of luck next year!