Supporters of the state’s High School Mock Trial Competition say they need to raise about $8,000 by June 1 to keep the program running this fall.

Friends of Mock Trial, a nonprofit group, already has raised about $7,000 of the $15,000 needed to fund the competition, which was started in the mid-1990s.

The Maine State Bar Association had sponsored the competition since 2005, but that organization has announced that it can’t afford to pick up the tab any longer.

In the wake of that news last fall, a handful of teachers, lawyers and parents formed Friends of Mock Trial.

“This group is trying to privately raise the money to keep it going,” said Julie Finn, the coordinator of the program. “Everybody in the group has some connection to the program. They have either judged, or coached, or their kids participated, so they are big fans.”

Last year, about 350 students from 22 high schools around the state participated in the competition. Hampden Academy defeated Sanford High School at the state final in December.

Supporters say the program develops skills in public speaking, quick thinking, knowledge of the law and rules of procedure.

Real lawyers and judges, sitting in real courtrooms around the state, judge the teams as they compete.

The $15,000 needed to run the competition each year pays for Finn’s work and to rent space for training sessions for volunteers.

Friends of Mock Trial is led by Beth Stouder of Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger, and Derry Rundlett of Childs, Rundlett, Fifiels, Shumway and Altshuler.

“It is a wonderful way to teach kids to think on their feet, to present an argument, to stand up and deliver it well,” Stouder said.

Stouder has been involved in the program over the past 15 years in various roles. She helped promote the program as a member of the state bar association’s publicity team; her stepdaughter was a participant; and she has served as a volunteer coach and as a judge.

“It would be a real loss,” Stouder said. “We’re not just trying to train little attorneys. It is really about critical thinking in ways that are different than what you learn in school.”

Kathryn King is a teacher and the mock trial coach at Hampden Academy, which has won several state championships.

“It is important that this competition continue from year to year,” King said in a statement. “I recruit students as freshmen and try to keep them on the team throughout high school. The skills and experience that they gain is cumulative. Skipping even one year would cause a major loss in momentum.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]