Student: Okay, so I want to impeach the witness.
Me: Right, that sounds like a good idea here. What he just said doesn’t match what’s in his affidavit.
Student: Yeah, okay. So what do I do?
Me: You know this! We talked about this!
Student: So, I ask to approach?
(I nod, and he begins to approach the witness.)
Me: Practice saying it!
Student: Your honor, may I approach?
Me: Yes, you may.
Student: Now what?
Me: Well, are you going to ask the witness a question? Isn’t that what you’d do?
Student, turning to the witness: Is this your affidavit?
(The witness says yes, and the student attorney reads the relevant portion.)
Student: Now what?
Me: You conclude by saying to the witness, “Did I read that correctly?”
Student, to the witness: Did I read that correctly?
(I now look expectantly at the student, waiting for his next line of questioning. He looks right back at me, as if we're having a staring contest. He blinks first.)
Student: Your honor that was impeachment!
Me: What? Yeah I know, but no, you can’t say that.
Student, quizzically: Okay…
Me: You’re done; you did the impeachment, now you just move on.
Student: Okay, your honor I move that this witness is impeached –
Student: Okay, then I move that you impeach this witness!
Me: No! You’re done!
Me: STOP TALKING!
(The student and I both dissolve into laughter)
This was me in January, during practice with my students. Back in October, I was asked by a colleague if I would coach a nearby high school mock trial team as a volunteer. I said yes without hesitation.
At the beginning, it was a steep climb. The students needed to learn how to do direct and cross examination, while learning the facts of our case. They had to figure out how and when to object. We “covered” the Rules of Evidence in one forty-five minute session. I'm pretty sure not everyone understands hearsay, but we’ll do better next year.
I enjoy coaching because it’s fun, but also because it fits with my values. The mission at UST Law encourages students to integrate faith and reason in the search for truth – a mission I hold dear in my own life. My beliefs motivate me to do what I can with the extraordinary gifts I have been given. I remember vividly my experiences as a student in high school mock trial, and the lessons I learned stick with me to this day. I also think about the team’s need for my expertise. There is no way the school could pay an attorney to provide this training. I am reminded that just because “work” of whatever kind doesn’t pay doesn’t mean it lacks value.
Christina Hilleary is a 2009 graduate of UST Law and currently works as a judicial law clerk in Minnesota's First Judicial District.