Mock Trial Was At Center Of Real Legal Dispute

May 9, 2009

Author: Greg Bluestein

Source: Google News

Wire Service: AP

The dozens of mock murder trials held in Atlanta's main courthouse Friday were punctuated with stubborn witnesses, compelling arguments and dizzying legal back-and-forths from high school students.

But the competition was underpinned by a real-life legal drama after an Orthodox Jewish school filed a discrimination complaint over the competition's schedule.

The Maimonides School, an Orthodox Jewish school in Brookline, Mass., has long planned to compete in the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Atlanta this weekend. But a key part of the competition falls on Saturday, and the students don't compete on the Sabbath.

The event's organizers rebuffed the school's attempts to tweak the schedule to accommodate the students' religious needs, so team members' parents hired an attorney to file a religious discrimination complaint to the Justice Department.

The legal fight heightened after a board member of the state Bar of Georgia resigned over the controversy and Fulton County's chief judge threatened to block the event from taking place in the downtown Atlanta courthouse unless the schedule was changed.

The mock trial's organizers begrudgingly relented Thursday, saying the decision forced organizers to choose between canceling the competition or adhering to "an unreasonable request."