Students from two dozen area high schools will strive for high marks from legal professionals Wednesday at the Riverside Hall of Justice as they work to make it through the second round of the 37th annual Riverside County Mock Trial Competition.

The contest got underway last week, with more than 450 students taking on the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks and investigators.

After Wednesday, three additional rounds are planned this month, followed in early March by the semifinal and final rounds, according to the county Office of Education, which is sponsoring the contest along with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Riverside County Bar Association and the Superior Court.

The county began holding student-level mock trials in 1983. Roughly 14,000 youths have participated since then, according to organizers.

This year’s contest challenges participants to successfully argue the fictitious case of People v. Klein, involving a “swatting” incident in which a disgruntled ex-employee of a restaurant allegedly makes a false report of a crime-in-progress to send first responders to a former co-worker’s residence in a retaliatory act.

Student teams consist of 8-25 youths, and contestants are given an allotted time, generally four to six minutes, at each stage of a proceeding, including opening and closing statements and cross-examinations.

Practicing attorneys and judges assess students’ performance and award points in accordance with criteria established for the competition.

Students from public and private high schools are permitted to take part. Last year’s winning team was MLK High School in Riverside.

After the final round on March 2 at the Riverside Historic Courthouse, the highest-scoring team will go on to represent the county at the State Mock Trial Competition, slated for March 22-24 in Sacramento.

More information is available at www.rcoe.us/student-events/mock-trial .

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