Shakespeare Theatre Company Hosts Annual Mock Trial

Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito and Stephen G. Breyer were among the bench participants hearing the case 'Richard the Third: A Good Name Restored - Was the Taking Unlawful?'

On January 14, 2019, the Shakespeare Theatre Company presented its Winter Mock Trial at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW). Guests were invited to hear Richard the Third: A Good Name Restored – Was the Taking Unlawful?

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr, Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr, Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The case was argued before a panel of judges: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. presiding, Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod of the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

After Henry VII was crowned King of England, the heirs of the Duke of Buckingham petitioned Parliament for restoration of his goods, honors, and title, all of which were forfeited to the Crown (in a process known as attainder) when he was executed upon the order of King Richard III. The jury was asked: Considering both the merits and procedural issues, should Buckingham’s title and honors be restored to his heirs?

STC 2019 Mock Trial. Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.
STC 2019 Mock Trial. Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Counsel for the Petitioner, the Estate of Buckingham, Lindsay Harrison (Jenner & Block LLP), argued that Buckingham neither committed treason nor had intent to do so, that he believed that Richard was the lawful king to whom he owed his allegiance and that the Crown’s “attainder exceeded even legitimate royal prerogative.”

Counsel for the Respondent, the Crown, Charles “Chuck” Cooper (Cooper & Kirk, PLLC), countered that the court should deny Buckingham’s heirs’ request, arguing that Buckingham knowingly committed treason, admitted his guilt, and that the attainder was ratified not under the usurper Richard III, but lawful King Henry VII and Parliament.

The Trial was moderated by Abbe D. Lowell, chair of the STC Bard Association. David Smith, Washington bureau chief of The Guardian was the evening’s guest presenter.

Shakespeare Theatre Company Mock Trial
STC Mock Trial. Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Justice Alito and the bench ruled in favor of the Crown, with Justice Breyer and Chief Judge Garland dissenting. The jury (audience) ruled in favor of Buckingham.

Since 1994, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has hosted a Mock Trial based on a play from STC’s mainstage season. This case corresponds to the spring production of Richard the Third. The fictional court case poses a legal question, or questions, and the audience must act as the jury to decide the fate of the characters. The Trial aims to examine the links between classic works and contemporary legal theory in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Mock Trial is sponsored by the Bard Association, STC’s affinity group for Washington’s legal community.

Shakespeare Theatre Company will present Richard the Third from February 5 through March 10, 2019 at Sidney Harmon Hall – 610 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 547-1122 or go online.