by Andy McCarthy
The trial took place at the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle several years ago. The D’Baha Indian Tribe was su- ing Intrepid Mining Corporation over Intrepid’s plans to ex- pand its uranium mining operations on D’Baha reservation land in Arizona. Counsel for the plaintiff were two experienced
litigators, one a partner at a mid-sized Seattle firm, the other an associate at a large
Seattle firm. Enjoying Article III life tenure, at least for a half-day, was an associate
from another Seattle firm, now a faculty member at the University of Washington
School of Law.
Plaintiff’s counsel never disclosed their timesheets, nor did they seem concerned
about whether their joint representation of a single client might run afoul of their
firm’s conflict-of-interest policies. But a person with knowledge of their activities
estimates that each attorney spent at least a half-day preparing the complex case
and a half-day trying it.
And defense counsel? The three of them ranged in age from 16 to 18. They were
not WSBA members. They were not law school graduates, nor college graduates,
nor even high school graduates. Ditto with the witnesses. Several of them still had
their learner’s permits. Except for the two “real lawyers” and His Honor, everyone
involved in that trial was a high school student engaged in an intellectual combat
sport — mock trial — and they were excited to be testing their skills against two pro-
fessionals. Thorough searches of both Lexis and Westlaw have not disclosed wheth-
er the D’Baha tribe obtained the injunction that it sought. But everyone involved
agrees that plaintiff’s counsel, defendant’s counsel, and the witnesses all came out
as winners at the end of the trial.
To be sure, the D’Baha case was unusual because it pitted the WSBA members against the students. In a typical
high school mock trial, students compete
against students from other schools, as
adults look on and critique. The students
in D’Baha were preparing for the national
competition in Phoenix that year and
three attorneys contributed their time
and talent to help the team get ready.
The High-Stakes Game of “Let’s
So what motivates three busy litigators
to give up well over a day of billable time
to work up a case involving an imaginary
tribe seeking to block uranium mining on
an imaginary reservation? And what motivates high school students to research
obsessively into uranium production,
geology, Indian law, and the intricacies
of equitable relief, just so they can wear
suits in a downtown courtroom?
Teens Take On
Mock Trials Have Real Benefits for All
Photo: Franklin High School “attorney” Albert
Fujii conducts the direct examination of Franklin
“witness” Quinn Angelou-Lysaker at the state
competition in Olympia, March 2014. Photo by
YMCA Youth & Government.