Mock Trial Mockery?


A prominent mock trial competition is a mockery this year, some voices in the Jewish community say.
The Anti-Defamation League, prominent Washington attorney Nathan Lewin and several Jewish newspapers have protested the recent decision by the National High School Mock Trial Championship not to accommodate the Shabbat requirements of a Boston day school that qualified for the 2009 competition, which was held this week in Atlanta.

The Maimonides School, a Modern Orthodox institution in suburban Brookline, was named state champion of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Mock Trial Program in March. It advanced to the national finals of the competition, now in its 24th year, where students participate in simulated courtroom situations.
Lewin, who is representing the school on a pro bono basis and filed a compliant with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, called the position of the mock trial organization an example of “insensitivity, intolerance and bureaucratic inertia.”

“It’s very anti-American,” he told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview. “An effort that is supposed to teach about American values is being undermined by unwillingness and intransigence.”
Mock trials were to he held from Wednesday to Sunday this week, meaning that the Brookline school would be likely to have a mock trial scheduled on Shabbat.

Parents of the Maimonides School students requested that two of some 150 mock trials be rescheduled, and offered to pay the additional costs of renting rooms. Tournament officials denied the request.
The national organization in 2005 unsuccessfully tried to block the organizers of the competition in North Carolina from accommodating competitors from New Jersey’s Torah Academy of Bergen County; then it passed a resolution barring future schedule changes made for religious reasons.