Mock trial courtroom will serve as learning laboratory
The new mock trial courtroom at the University of West Florida may not be real, but the possibilities it creates are very real, according to those gathered to celebrate its dedication.
A former professor at UWF, Judge Ross Goodman, 1st Judicial Circuit, was present at a retreat years ago when the idea of a mock courtroom was first suggested.
“I sincerely hope this courtroom enables students to go out in the world and do justice and seek justice and make our world a better place,” said Goodman, who hopes to preside over real life court proceedings on the UWF campus in the mock courtroom in the future.
“A dream come true” is how Glenn Rohrer, director of the School of Justice Studies and Social Work, described the mock courtroom. He praised Associate Professor of Legal Studies Kimberly Tatum, the project donors as well as the university’s staff for helping make the courtroom a reality.
“The courtroom will give our students the unique opportunity to learn about the American legal system in a direct way. It will benefit not just our UWF students, but also our local community,” said Tatum.
The courtroom will serve as a valuable learning lab for UWF students pursuing careers in the law and criminal justice fields. Primarily, the courtroom will be a place for the UWF Mock Trial Team to practice and to host inter-collegiate competitions but also serve as a training facility for high school mock trial students; local law enforcement agencies; social services agencies; and the local legal community. The facility will allow students to call on their “tactile senses” to get a real feel of what it is like to cross-examine a witness, deliver closing arguments before a jury or testify in open court according to Goodman.
At the dedication, Don Chu, dean of the College of Professional Studies, announced that $10,000 in competitive scholarships will be used to attract students who participated on their high school mock trial team. The UWF Mock Trial Team is 9 years old and includes about 17 students.
“This mock courtroom reinforces UWF’s approach to the economy – we’re doing it anyway, we’re growing anyway,” UWF President Judy Bense told the crowd of professors, students and community supporters, including a few of the area’s most recognizable attorneys, such as Fred Levin, a major benefactor in the project.
Complete renovation costs of about $225,000 were covered by a $30,000 grant and donations from private individuals, law firms, professional association, faculty members and court reporting and paralegal groups along with university resources. The courtroom, about 1,500 square feet, features high-tech presentation systems; videoconferencing capabilities; high-speed Internet capabilities; and witness conference/witness interview room.
The School of Justice Studies and Social Work will direct the use of the courtroom.
For more information, contact Kimberly Tatum at (850) 857-6198 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Susie Forrester, University Marketing Communications