Start a legal studies degree program at American Public University.
By Cecilia DeSilva Selbrede, JD
Adjunct Professor, Legal Studies, School of Security and Global Studies
May 1st was Law Day, celebrating the Rule of Law and our legal system. Law Day seeks to provide an opportunity for all Americans to better understand how the law and the legal process protect the liberty that we all share and cherish.
One of the most dramatic ways to witness our legal system in action is by witnessing a trial. There is nothing like the adversarial system to illustrate how the Rule of Law works. At play are opposing sides, each side advocating its agenda: to protect the innocent or to penalize the guilty.
Mock Trials Offer Students a First-Hand Courtroom Experience
Our AMU/APU students in the Phi Alpha Delta chapter have an exciting opportunity for first-hand experience with the trial process. As they prepare for a mock trial competition, they not only learn their roles as prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants and witnesses, but they also learn the intrinsic details of a trial.
They learn how to present the story to the adjudicator of facts, be that a judge or jury. The presentations will vary depending on what the burden of proof is in the case. Is the full burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt on the student prosecutors throughout the trial, or is it their job as defense attorneys only to introduce what raises doubt? The students master the evidentiary rules of law, the essence of a trial, by learning how to fairly present evidence and hinder, prevent, or refute their trial opponents evidence.
Students Learn that the Law Is in Place to Defend Even the Most Undesirable Clients
Probably one of the most important aspects of the trial experience is that our students learn that the law is in place to defend even the most undesirable clients. The real gold standard for the Rule of Law is that it protects all Americans, not just the few. No matter how heinous the crime, everyone deserves their day in court with the full protection of the law.
The very basis for our laws means that every person is afforded the same rights. Even if someone is blatantly guilty, he or she is still permitted to have the evidence tested in court and to require the prosecution to uphold its burden of proving guilt.
Reading about the Rule of Law is quite different from living it in a trial. Understanding the details of hearsay objections and being able to articulate the basis for an objection during the heat of a mock trial to sway a judge or jury to rule in your favor gives students a taste of how the Rule of Law works.
The mock trial offers our students a chance to experience how the justice system works and how the many facets of the law fit together to protect every American’s liberty. By participating in the mock trial process, our students are better able to respect and understand the system of law and justice in the United States.
About the Author
Cecilia DeSilva Selbrede is an Adjunct Professor of Legal Studies in the School of Security and Global Studies. Her J.D. is from Rutgers University School of Law Camden, N.J. Cecilia has been admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Washington State and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is Cecilia’s first year serving as a faculty co-advisor for Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity. As an attorney who loves litigation, Cecilia is excited to pass on the passion for the courtroom to her students.