On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 25 of Valley View Middle Schools Students went to trial. Well sort of. The Valleyview Middle School’s Mock Trial club held their own mock trials in which they actually created and wrote the facts of each case, the testimony of the witnesses for both sides of the argument, and even the case law.
It all began with a call from the New Jersey State Bar Foundation for 7th and 8th grade students to participate in “Law Adventures” a program and contest designed to teach students understanding of the legal and justice system in New Jersey. They were asked to create these trials based on two themes: (a) environmental issues, and (b) diversity issues.
Many of the other schools who decided to take part in this program had actual Mock Trial/Debate Classes, but Valleyview Middle School did not. If they wanted to participate they were going to have to do it as an afterschool club in which the parents of the students would have to fund the program. However, thanks to a generous donation from Einhorn Harris Ascher Barbarito & Frost, PC, a full service law firm in Denville with close ties to the community, the students were allowed to participate cost free.
In addition to their generous monetary donation, Einhorn Harris Ascher Barbarito & Frost, PC associate, Timothy J. Ford, Esq. donated his time to work with the students. An experienced litigation attorney who has been involved in many trials, several times a month, Mr. Ford, working with Social Studies teacher and faculty advisor of the Mock Trial Club, Mark Hoffman would assist the students with designing their mock cases for submission to the state competition. Mr. Ford explained that this program helped these students to “develop both their creative and critical thinking abilities.” Mark Hoffman has been teaching at Valleyview Middle School for six years; he began and has been the driving force behind the Mock Trial Club for three of those years.
Over 100 different cases were submitted to the state wide competition but only a small number were chosen to present their cases at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. While Valleyview’s students were not chosen, both Mr. Ford and Mr. Hoffman, as mentors and coaches, thought they should present their Mock Trials in front of their own juries made up of parents, Valleyview Middle School’s new principle, Paul Iantosca, Denville School Board President, Seth Yen Johnson, and Denville School Superintendent , Dr. Drucilla Clark.
At the end of the evening’s “trials” when the students were presented with certificates of participation. Mr. Ford said: “I think this program was more rewarding to me than to the kids. They really got to understand how the New Jersey court system works, and they seemed to have fun. This made it tremendously enjoyable for me.”
Mr. Hoffman subsquently sent an extremely wonderful note thanking the firm and Timothy J. Ford: Valleyview Middle School Thank You.pdf