Rules, Roles and Decorum

Noble County Courthouse, Albion, Indiana,  1887.

Mock Trial Procedures

  •  When teams register and pay their feeds they will be given the following:
    • The case material
    • The rules for the competition
  • The Mock Trial rules also contain the rules of evidence from which objections can be made
  • Check with your state sponsor to see if they have a list serve or some other way of answering question
  • If there is a list serve, sign up for it and review the answers that are given because they become part of the material and rules.

Sample Mock Trial Rules

Typical Sequence of a Mock Trial

  1. Clerk calls the court to order.
  2. Judge enters and takes the bench
  3. Judge may make a few initial comments
  4. Each side introduces itself
  5. Each side may bring up preliminary matters such as:
    • The bailiff sit in the jury box during opening statement and closing argument so speakers can see the time cards
    • Permission to freely move around the courtroom during direct and cross examination
    • Permission to video tape the court (if wanted).
  6. Parties make opening statements 
  7. Prosecution/plaintiff presents their case:
    • Prosecution/plaintiff calls their witnesses and seeks to admit exhibits.
    • Defense cross examines these witnesses
  8. Prosecution/plaintiffs rest their case
  9. Defense presents their case:
    • Defense calls their witnesses and seeks to admit exhibits
    • Prosecution/plaintiff  cross examines these witnesses
  10. Defense rests their case
  11. Prosecution/plaintiff makes their initial closing argument
  12. Defense makes their closing argument
  13. Prosecution/Plaintiff makes their rebuttal closing argument
  14. Jury/Judge deliberate and fill out their ballots
  15. Ballots are sent to the competition coordinator
  16. Judges may make a few comments to the participants

Trial Sequence and Time Limits

The time limits for each competition may vary slightly based on the competition and jurisdiction.  The following is an example of what these could look like:

Each side has 43 minutes to present its case, which, allowing for introductory matters, arguing objections, judges deliberations, and preliminary matters would make each round approximately 1 hour 40 minutes.

The trial sequence and time limits are as follows: 

  1. Introductory matters – 5 minutes total (conducted by judge)
  2. Opening statement – 5 minutes per side 
  3. Direct and redirect (optional) – 22 minutes per side
  4. Cross and re-cross (optional) – 11 minutes per side 
  5. Closing argument – 5 minutes per side*  
  6. Judges’ deliberations – 10 minutes total (judges in private)

*Prosecution may reserve time for rebuttal at the beginning of closing argument.

** Each side may make objections during the direct and cross examinations. The time taken making and arguing these objections is not counted against a side’s overall time.  Objections are not allowed during opening statements or closing arguments.

Brief Overview of the Roles

  • Attorney doing the opening statement:
    • Gives a memorized oratory speech
    • Excellent for someone who may miss some meetings
    • No objections are allowed so this attorney does not have to learn rules of evidence
    • Attorney is familiar with the overall case and works closely with the other attorneys 
  • Attorney(s) doing Direct Examination
    • Asks their own witnesses open ended questions to help them tell their story
    • May introduce Exhibits.
    • Makes and responds to objections.
    • Makes sure the evidence comes in that their side needs.
    • Tries to keep out objectionable evidence the other side want in.
  • Attorneys(s) doing Cross Examination:
    • Asks the other side’s witness closed ended questions to get admissions.
    • Is able to control the opposing side’s witnesses.
    • May need to introduce exhibits.
    • Makes and responds to objections.
    • May needs to know how to introduce exhibits
    • Makes sure the evidence comes in that their side needs.
    • Tries to keep out objectionable evidence the other side wants in. 
  • Attorney doing Closing Argument
    • Know the entire case
    • Listen to the testimony that comes in at trial.
    • Makes the final argument based on this evidence.  that comes in.
    • Does not make or respond to objections.  
    • This role is best for a team member who has done mock trial before.
  • Lay Witnesses
    • Ordinary witnesses that testify based upon their personal knowledge and life experiences.
    • Great for team members who like to act.
  • Expert Witnesses
    • Persons who testify based upon their qualifications of expertise in their field.
    • Great for team members that want to be in a professional role.
  • Clerk and Bailiff
    • These roles can be learned quickly and are excellent for someone who wants to be involved in mock trial but does not have a lot of time to devote to it. 
  • Team Captains (optional)
    • Consider having two team captains, one for the Prosecution/Plaintiff and one for the Defense.  
    • These are often the attorney doing closing argument.
    • Have experience in a variety of mock trial roles and possess leadership qualities.
  • Non-Trial Roles (optional;)
    • Not officially listed on the roster or introduced to the Court.
    • Artists who sketch the courtroom and participants.
    • Reporters to video tape the trial (with the permission of the court)
    • Support and backup team members.

Court Decorum (General Suggestions)

  • Always stand when talking to the court and when the judge enters or leaves the room
  • Attorneys are officers of the court – be professional
  • Stay in your role the entire time as if this were an actual trial 
  • Always be courteous to the judge, attorneys and witnesses
    • When being assertive on cross examination go after the witness not the person playing the role
    • Don’ t laugh or make sounds if the other side makes a mistake
  • Dress appropriately
  • Say “Yes, your Honor” or “No, your Honor” when answering questions from the judge 
  • If the judge rules against you on a point or in the case, take the adverse ruling gracefully and be cordial with the judge and other team
  • If you are a witness, don’t be seated until after the clerk swears you in
  • Follow the seating chart that comes with your case material
  • Don’t show you are having fun until after the round
  • Shake the hands of the other team after the judges retire to deliberate and give complements generously

Sample Seating Chart