It’s one of those jewels of a program found throughout Seattle Public
Schools: Ever since High School Mock Trial Competitions began two
decades ago, Franklin High School has been there, earning top rankings
against private powerhouses like Seattle Prep, University Prep and
In 2000, Franklin went all the way to the top, taking first place in the
National Competition – the first Washington team to take the national
Franklin’s Mock Trial tradition continues on March 27-29 when the team
heads to the State Championships in Olympia, hosted by the Washington
YMCA. In the King County competition, Franklin took an excruciatingly
close second place to their perennial – but friendly – rivals at Seattle
Prep. Franklin’s JV team took third.
Franklin teacher and Mock Trial coach Don Eaton recruits students to the
team based on recommendations from other teachers and current team
members. He also gets students and parents who seek him out after
learning about Franklin’s storied team. Students have to try out for a
A year and a half ago, Rachel Kaftan, a sophomore, tried out after a
friend from Lake Washington Girls Middle School, suggested she give it a
try. “I’m a performer, so I love public speaking,” Kaftan said. “And it involves a lot of improv, which I love.”
Kaftan was named “Outstanding Attorney” in the final round of the King
County competition. Teammate Callie Craig was named “Outstanding
Teams prepared for the competition using a 72-page case document prepared by King County Superior Court Judge William Downing. As in years past, the
case drew from hot issues of the day, in this instance those raised by
the Edward Snowden saga.
“Jurors” had to decide whether an outside
computer tech working on contract with the local police department is a
“traitorous leaker” or a “heroic whistleblower” for sharing troubling
documents from a sealed search warrant with a journalist friend. Teams
were provided with witness statements, trial exhibits, relevant police
policies and municipal law, jury instructions and pretrial motions. They
built their cases for the plaintiff and for the defense from there.
“I like critically thinking about the cases,” said Rebekah Nachman, a
junior at Franklin. “It gives us the opportunity to work things out on
Mock Trial is part of Franklin’s Law and Society class but is
cross-listed as a Career and Technical Education course so that students
can receive class credits for being a part of the team multiple years.
On top of class time, the Mock Trial team spends four to six hours every
Friday night at the King County Courthouse, working on their cases and
practicing their examinations and cross-examinations.
Three attorney raters scored the trial from the jury box, while Judge
Downing presided over the trial. From the moment the trial begins until
the end, all parties are required to proceed as if this was a real trial
in King County Superior Court. Students had to learn the Federal Rules
of Evidence and made (and answered) objections. Attorneys called
witnesses, who are bound by the contents of their sworn affidavits.
Eaton, the team’s coach, has had a few students actually move on to law
school, but he said the real benefit of the program is "seeing students
learn to construct good arguments themselves and – better yet – identify
poorly thought through logical claims. Those skills are immensely
useful, whatever path students pursue in after high school."
Kaftan, for example, never really thought about studying law, but
participating in Mock Trial has prompted her to take a second look: “My
first calling is theater and being an actress,” Kaftan said. “But being a
lawyer is a good back-up plan for me.”