Problematic Problems: The Case Against Mock Trial Problems Involving Racist Speech
Volume 94, Online
By Todd A. Berger [PDF]

Notably, mock trial problems used in other relatively recent competitions have likewise featured bigoted characters using derogatory speech regarding sensitive issues of personal identification, including race. Whether it is appropriate for trial competition problems to address controversial societal issues has emerged as an important topic of discussion within the national trial advocacy community.

Students will be justifiably offended when racist language is used in a trial competition problem because race is both a deeply personal issue and one that implicates broader societal questions related to fairness and equality. Recognizing such and drawing on my own experiences with the Syracuse fact pattern, as well as conversations with others in the trial advocacy community, this Essay posits that the potential harms caused by patterns using racist language outweigh whatever assumed benefits they might bring to the student advocacy experience.