DENVILLE, NJ – The Mock Trial Club at Valleyview Middle School in Denville received a $1,200 donation from Einhorn Harris on Dec. 10. Timothy Ford, a partner at the Denville-based law firm and the attorney advisor for the club, presented the check to club members during a Board of Education meeting. Marian Lezgus, Valleyview’s teacher librarian and the club’s faculty advisor, accepted the gift on behalf of the club. In accepting the check, Lezgus, who has been the faculty advisor for four years, shared information about the Mock Trial Club with Board of Education members, Superintendent Steven Forte, family members and friends.
The club consists of seventh and eighth graders. This year there are 35 participants, more than triple its usual size. Following an orientation meeting in late September, the club begins to prepare original mock trial cases for entry in the Law Adventure Competition sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Entries must be submitted to the foundation by Jan. 31, 2019, and the foundation announces the winners by the end of March. According to Lezgus, typically 130 cases are submitted statewide.
There are two divisions – seventh grade and eighth grade. The foundation selects a first-, second- and third-place winner and three honorable mentions for each division. The winners will perform their cases before a judge at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick in May. All other participating teams will be invited to attend and serve as the jury.
This year, Lezgus divided the Valleyview Mock Trial Club into four teams according to grade level. Each team will write its own case on either of the two topics provided by the foundation for this year’s competition: plagiarism or cybercrime. This is the first time the Valleyview club has submitted more than two cases for consideration.
“I’ve taken a new strategy this year by organizing the teams by grade level,” Lezgus shared. In prior years, the teams were not grade-specific. They were a combination of seventh and eighth graders, which meant all Valleyview teams had to compete in the eighth-grade division. Lezgus believes the grade-specific approach will give the Valleyview teams a better advantage and increase their likelihood of placing, an occurrence that has eluded the team in its 10-year existence.
Regardless of whether any Valleyview team places or receives an honorable mention in the Law Adventure Competition, each team still will perform its case. The students will convert their cases into a script and present them during “Night Court.” Night Court is a public performance that is held in the Denville Municipal Court during the evening. This year’s Night Court will take place on Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. Mark Hoffman, the club’s creator and former faculty advisor, will serve as the judge facilitator.
“We are grateful for Tim Ford and his commitment to the club,” stated Lezgus. “He attends almost every meeting, including our orientation meeting in September.” According to Lezgus, the club meets 20-25 times throughout the season. “Einhorn Harris’s generous donation allows each student to participate without having to pay any fees.”
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