Creating a Courtroom for a Mock Trial

Scott Bair, Ohio State University

Although we used the Moot Courtroom in the Moritz School of Law at Ohio State (see image), any large room can be arranged to hold a mock trial. Don't underestimate your ability to use an actual courtroom in the county courthouse, especially on a Saturday. Many judges and lawyers are eager to help. Some large law firms also have moot courtrooms built in the office. The key features that need to be present include:

  • Jury box (chairs)
  • Judge's bench or desk
  • American flag
  • Witness chair
  • Podium for attorneys to address jury
  • Audiovisual aids (projector & screen)
  • Be sure you double check the AV equipment
  • Tables for attorneys
  • Room for a court recorder (optional)
  • Room to display exhibits or a wall or table
  • General seating for spectators

Part of any trial or mock trial is the formal atmosphere of the courtroom which enhances the gravitas of the societal conflicts being adjudicated. An American flag helps provide this atmosphere as does having the students wear formal attire (coats & ties, slacks & blouses or dresses). As a matter of course, I do not allow expert witnesses to view the proceedings until after they are testified. The presence of a real judge in her / his formal robes always a great opportunity for students to witness. Many judges are amenable to helping out. A local attorney with trial experience also can serve as the judge. Because of the time involved and the number of people involved you always want to check your AV equipment immediately before the trial begins and have backup equipment ready.

If possible, local attorneys also can serve to prepare the various teams and can explain to your class what are the normal procedures within the courtroom and what motions can be made in your mock trial. There is nothing better than adding the credibility of a local judge and local attorneys. The local newspaper also may be interested in the mock trial.

In one of our mock trials at Ohio State, I hired two art majors to make charcoal sketches of the witnesses and the jury. It was a big hit. I also had a professional photographer take pictures and a professional videographer make a video during another mock trial. (You will be too busy to take good pictures.) At the end of the courses, each student either received a charcoal sketch or a set of pictures and video. You can be as creative as wish. The more people that participate, the better. It helps perpetuate your course.

It is also good to have on hand bottles of water, extra sketch pads, pens, and plain old overheads with a projector in case the audiovisuals fail, and lots of reassurance for the participants. Did I mention that you should always check your AV equipment. The most important thing to have is fun!