Empire to Coordinate First Overseas Program This Weekend

First it was New York, then San Francisco, then Atlanta—now, Empire Mock Trial is going across the globe, helping coordinate a mock trial program in Hong Kong.

Empire is partnering with ARCH Community Outreach (ACO) to coordinate the 2017 Hong Kong Inter-School Mock Trial Championship (HKISMTC) on April 29-30 at the University of Hong Kong.

ACO is a non-profit charity with a mission to broaden Hong Kong youth’s exposure to international educational experiences and careers.

While the HKISMTC is in its fourth year, this is the first year that Empire has helped organize the competition.

“We are excited to bring our partnership with Empire to the next stage this year with the co-organization of the 2017 HKISMTC,” said ACO co-founder Jennifer Yu.

ACO brought Empire on board because of its 10-year history hosting high quality mock trial competitions that both challenge and inspire the students who participate. For Empire, partnering with the ACO helps deepen its commitment to creating global citizens through mock trial.

“We’ve always been focused on using mock trial to empower young people, and that’s never been confined to geographic borders,” said Empire Executive Director Justin Matarrese. “When the opportunity arose to deliver mock trial programming on a different continent, we were thrilled to be a part of it.”

The Hong Kong Inter-School Mock Trial Championship was previously run like a collegiate American mock trial tournament, using American law.  With the encouragement of ACO, Empire has revamped the program so that it now uses Hong Kong statutes and case law.

“Empire’s commitment to developing global citizens starts with making students aware of the rules that govern their own community,” said Matarrese. “This year’s champion will be able to share their experience with their peers at an Empire program, creating further opportunities for learning, collaboration, and growth.”

Working with ACO, Empire made the following changes to the 2017 program:

  • Adapted a prior U.S. case to take place in Hong Kong, using HK criminal law as the basis for the indictment (all four offenses are from the HK criminal code)
  • Drafted an Evidence Ordinance based on the HK evidence code and common law
  • Published a new competition rule book
  • Created a trial guide, outlining procedures such as introducing exhibits into evidence and conducting a cross examination by contradiction (known as impeachment in the states)
  • Created an educational supplement on the relevant criminal law and burdens of proof
  • Designed a new ballot and comment sheet for judges
  • Implemented HK trial practices
  • Hosted 90 minute webinar for students

Several Empire Mock Trial alumni have been working on the Hong Kong program.

Viran Weerasekera (Empire SF 2015) handled all aspects of tournament operations, from case editing to weekly check-in calls. Stephanie Fast (Empire NY 2012 & 2013) designed graphics, including the digital remastering of all case exhibits and ballot design.  Sydney Franklin (Empire NY 2011-2013) proofed the case file.  And Tiye Rosier (Empire SF 2014) played a key role in judge recruitment.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to support an organization that is doing amazing work for students in Hong Kong,” Weerasekera said. “It has been a brilliant cross-collaborative effort branching across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.”

Four members of the Empire team are heading to Hong Kong for the competition, including Matarrese, Weerasekera, Tobias Benjamin (IT Director), and Devon Holstad (one of Empire’s Tabulation Directors). Joining the team in Hong Kong are Harry Tillis, a veteran Empire judge who is leading judge orientation and presiding over trials, as well as Hayley Roberts, coach of the English-based Springwood mock trial team, who placed 4th at Empire NY last year. Roberts is a magistrate in the U.K. and plans to judge the Hong Kong trials.

“The ACO and Empire teams have worked tirelessly over the past 6-months to organize this weekend’s championship,” said Jennifer Yu. “We look forward to having the Empire team in Hong Kong this week and wish all competitors best of luck in their final preparation!”

This weekend’s champion will represent Hong Kong at an Empire program this fall, made possible by the generosity of ACO.  Since 2014, ACO has fully funded its champion’s participation at an Empire program.

Empire Mock Trial is honored to organize its first ever competition abroad.  The organization is grateful to ACO’s Kylie Ng, Teresa Law, Jennifer Yu and Jennifer Ma for their work in facilitating this partnership.

“We’re just a few days away from meeting the students and watching them shine,” said Matarrese. “That’s what it’s all about.”

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