For students interested in pursuing a career in law, Sabine LaBossiere’s model judiciary club can be a great opportunity to get a head start. This year’s club has experienced many victories, including the success of senior Francesco Pino.
“The model judiciary program is a program that is a simulation of today’s modern day court system. It begins with trial court face so everything except the judge is simulated. [Each team] has attorneys and witnesses and [they] go against another school in front of a actual federal judge,” Pino said.
“Then, one or more of the attorneys move onto the appeals round, which brings you further into the law and shows you how the appeals process goes. Once you get past the appeals round, you go to the Supreme Court round which is the best of the best mock attorneys from around the state. You compete to be the best overall and try to win your side of the case.”
Pino didn’t initially have a desire to be in this club, however LaBossiere inspired him to join and become an active participant.
“Mrs. LaBossiere has been a mentor since 10th grade. [As a matter of fact,] she’s the one who brought me into the into the program and I’ve stayed in ever since. She is the mastermind behind it all and I was lucky to learn from her,” Pino said.
With the mentorship from Labossiere as well as an aspiration to do well, Pino went into the competition determined and prepared. Some of his preparation included involvement with local law officials as well as weekly practice.
“I had been going to the courthouse and had been working with the District Attorney’s office from mid-March, for the appeals round of the model judiciary program, to about a day before the Supreme Court round after school 2 to 3 days a week,” Pino said.
Despite all this preparation, humanity leaked in and his nerves began to get to him.
“I was nervous. However, I was the first to compete so I took the opportunity and set the stage for all the other competitors. I put in the justice’s mind my interpretation of the law and I really set the standard high for the rest of the competitors,” Pino said.
While things did turn out great for Pino, there were several difficulties in his competition. Pino felt the pressure when he stood in front of the panel of judges.
“The scariest part about competing is really the justices being on the high bench above you. There are about seven to nine justices who have been practicing the law for many, many years. They know much more than you do, yet you still have to have enough confidence to say what you need to say and say it correctly,” Pino said.
Pino overcame his fears and edged Prince George to victory at the Supreme Court Level, having fun in the process.
“My favorite part about the program was being able to learn from experienced attorneys over at the DA’s office and getting the opportunity to speak in front of the Supreme Court of Virginia, which many lawyers never actually get to do. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to do these things,” Pino said.
Upon hearing that he had won for Prince George, Pino was overwhelmed with a sense of pride.
“It was absolutely exhilarating to know I did myself proud, made my school proud, and my parents proud,” Pino said.
Pino looks back on his experience as one that many others much older may not have the chance to receive. He is grateful for the opportunities that Model Judiciary gave him and encourages other students to join in the years to come.