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Informed Citizens

are Better Citizens

A Morris County high school captured its fourth statewide mock trial title in one of the closest final competitions judges could recall.

West Morris Mendham High School narrowly defeated Middlesex County’s Noor-Ul-Iman to win the New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s 2017 Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition. The team will go on to compete in May in the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Connecticut.

“I do not recall a finer set of teams in the finals,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who presided over the final competition, held on March 22 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.

Members of the West Morris team called the victory a fantastic achievement.

“We put in so much hard work,” said West Morris student Erik Szakiel. “It is going to mean a lot to represent New Jersey in the national competition.”

Members of the Noor-Ul-Iman team said they were grateful for the opportunity to compete in the statewide finals, especially since at the start of the school year it wasn’t clear there would be enough students to even have a team.

“It’s been such a great experience. It’s having a real voice and being able to speak out in the community,” said Isra Thange, of Noor-Ul-Iman.

The state bar foundation’s competition began in 1982, and has taught more than 100,000 New Jersey students about the fundamentals of the court system, while developing critical thinking and public speaking skills. Over 200 teams took part in this year’s competition.

The 2017 case involved a high school student suing a classmate who accused her of cheating during a mock trial competition. The student claimed she would have received a college scholarship if defamatory statements about her had not been posted online.

Foundation President Lynn Fontaine Newsome said the teams had reason to be proud of their achievements, calling them the “best of the best,” and encouraging the students to consider careers in the law.

The law, she said, “is what stands between us and tyranny.”

In addition to the mock trial competition, the day featured the presentation of awards to students who took part in the foundation’s courtroom sketch artist competition.