ORANGE, NJ — On Saturday morning, Sept. 10, the Orange Municipal Court was the scene of the 2022 mock court trial for Orange teens. The courthouse was humming with discussions among a dozen student advocates about whether Congress should act in response to the recent Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade. On June 24, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that each state may now impose its own abortion regulations, in contradiction of the federal standard that had been established by Roe.
The idea of this mock court trial was conceived by Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten and coordinated with Mayor Dwayne D. Warren, Board of Education President Shawneque Johnson and the Orange Municipal Court Staff. The issue up for debate was whether Congress should step in and create uniform abortion rules throughout the country, or whether the Dobbs decision should stand.
Each team was supplied with legal research so that they could argue either side of the issue. They put their personal beliefs aside and articulated well-reasoned arguments before a sitting municipal court judge. The students alternated between being witnesses and mock lawyers, who conducted elements of direct and cross examination. They also made objections, which they defended under the judge’s scrutiny.
“The students’ performance even exceeded their preparation and their experience,” Orange Municipal Court Judge Rashidah N. Hasan said.
Orange municipal prosecutor Theresa Pollard said that “it was especially pleasing to observe how many of these student leaders were thinking quickly on their feet like real-life lawyers and other professionals do every day.”
The organizers made it clear that the point of the mock trial exercise was not to resolve the brewing legal and political debate over the abortion issue.
“We sought to use the mock trial format to further develop critical thinking and public speaking skills in order to maximize students’ confidence,” Warren said.
The stated goal was to expose students to real-life challenges in powerful forums and make it clear that they belong in those spaces and can succeed in any field they chose.
“I was well-pleased with what I observed,” Orange Superintendent of Schools Gerald Fitzhugh II said. “I want that kind of greatness to continue districtwide.
Next up on the mock trial agenda is a debate on the state’s marijuana legalization legislation.
Photos Courtesy of Orange