The Alberta Debate and Speech Association

              


Law Day is the largest public legal education event of its kind in the entire country. Law Day started in 1983, when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau sent a letter to the Canadian Bar Association proclaiming Law Day in April celebrating the proclamation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. April 17 was the date of the Charter's proclamation and Law Day takes place on the Saturday closest to April 17. Law Day is aimed at educating and informing the public about the role and importance of the law. Since many people have a limited knowledge about the law and how the legal system works, Law Day empowers the public at large. It provides an excellent opportunity for the profession to educate the public about the vital role that lawyers and the judiciary serve in guaranteeing an open, independent and unbiased judicial system.

Law Day is a presentation of the Canadian Bar Association and the Edmonton legal community. Lawyers, Judges, students, court clerks and others volunteer their time to invite the public to the Law Courts Building in Edmonton and Calgary and see how the justice system works and the variety of people and organizations that are involved. There are talks, booths, and displays with information about organizations in the community, mock trials to show in an entertaining and informative way the procedures and rules which govern trials and the role each person plays in the court room. There are also tours of the Law Courts Building to show the physical surroundings that the lawyers and judges work in. Our aim is to show the public the inner workings of the legal system so that the general public has a good understanding of the process and the people involved.

Included in the programme are:

- Mock children's trials
- Mock family and criminal trials
- Mock civil trials
- Poster contests
- Citizenship court
- Court tours
- Displays from community organizations involved in the legal process.
- High School Mock Trial Competition.

For more details, see the Alberta Law Day Website - www.lawdayalberta.com

MOCK TRIAL COMPETITION

The first province-wide mock tournament took place in Ontario in 1983. Other communities decided to incorporate a high school mock trial tournament as part of their Law Day activities, including Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. The first city-wide tournaments were held in Edmonton and Calgary in 1986. From 1987 to 1997 teams from Edmonton have competed for the William A. McGillvray Trophy. In 1998 the Law Society Trophy replaced this trophy which was retired to Archbishop MacDonald High School - the winner of the trophy in all 11 years of its existance.


Mock trials are one way to involve students in re-creating the dramatic centre of the justice system. Such a 'hands-on' learning activity will require students to master all those basic facts about courtroom procedures that are essential to understanding how the legal system works. But it will take them further. It will involve them in a co-operative activitiy as student teams work together to prepare their part of the trial: it will involve them in weighing evidence and organizing rational argument: it will force them to consider the implications of concepts like 'innocent until proven guilty' or the relationship between crime and punishment. Preparing and presenting a mock trial should do all of these things and, because the students are the active participants, it should be fun.

The following sets out some of the attitudes, knowledge and skills inherent in a mock trial exercise:

Attitudes
Participation in a mock trial will foster an appreciation of:
What it feels like to be a person involved in a trial
The legal mechanism used to resolve disputes
The considerations affecting decisions about guilt, innocence, and sentencing
The role of a trial as a vehicle of justice and fairness in our society

Knowledge
Participation in a mock trial will encourage the acquisition of information regarding:
Roles of courtroom personnel
Codified law pertaining to a specific question
Formalities, seqencing and physical setting of a courtroom for a trial

Skills
Participation in a mock trial will encourage the acquisition of, or increase skills pertaining to:
Questioning techniques
Critical analysis
Decision-making
Oral advocacy
Research of codified law pertaining to a particular question

Of course, a mock trial is not a real trial. It is a simplified version, in which principles of the criminal justice system have been emphasized, while the fine details of the procedures have been simplified or omitted. Because of such simplification, there will inevitably be moments when the students' performances will be similar to, but not exact duplications of, courtroom practice. These changes in procedure will not affect important concepts but will make the mock trial more efficient. The importance of understanding the principle and rules more than outweighs any minor inaccuracies which might occur.

A school team consists of four students: two perform witness roles, two perform lawyer roles. All roles can be performed by either male or female students.