Members of Northport High School’s law program and mock trial team participated in the EDNY Summer Justice Institute at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. Incoming 10th graders Kailey Ciszek, Kate Karp, Lily Eagen and Caitlyn Murphy as well as incoming 11th graders Molly Zambri, Maia Kramer, Sadie Callaghan and Kaden Sposato attended the week-long event.
Officially titled “Justice Institute: Crime, the Constitution and the Courts,” the program is run in partnership with the Touro Law Center and the Eastern District of New York Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Throughout the week students heard presentations from federal judges, including U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco, FBI agents, Deputy U.S. Marshals, a U.S. Secret Service agent, federal prosecutors and more. Mentored by current law school students, their lessons culminated in a mock trial competition against neighboring districts. With only a few combined hours to study the case and learn the script, students had to argue their respective sides in front of judges.
Northport High School students were divided into incoming 10th graders and incoming 11th graders for their mock trial competitions. Both teams won their morning and afternoon preliminary mock trail competitions but did not compete in the final competition.
When asked about her favorite part of the program, sophomore Kate Karp said, “Hearing all the different speakers and getting different perspectives,” was her favorite aspect.
Sophomore Caitlyn Murphy added “I also liked that you were able to have conversation with them as well as hear from them, so you were able to learn a lot.”
Junior Molly Zambri also noted that the mock trial competitions helped her “gain confidence” in her opening statements and improve her overall performance in mock trial.
Law Program Coordinator David Scott was thrilled to see the program return after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. “I knew these kids would benefit tremendously from the program. We have a great group of Northport High School students here and I am thrilled for them,” he said.
The final day of the event included a presentation from keynote speaker John Tinker, plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). Mr. Tinker’s case is widely regarded as setting the precedent for student rights and free speech in America. When asked where he got his confidence to stand up for his rights came from, Mr. Tinker credited his parents as “incredibly brave people” who taught him to stand up for what he believes in.
Students are looking forward to applying the skills they learned during the program to their mock trial team competitions in the fall.