Supreme Court Justice Breyer presides over Shakespeare Theatre’s Mock Trial

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Shakespeare Theatre's Mock Trial (Part 1)

Shakespeare’s plays are packed with conflict that would make for riveting court cases.

As such, Shakespeare Theatre’s Virtual Mock Trial returns this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s easy to do, it’s fun, it’s not expensive, it’s educational, it’s funny as heck and it’s for a good cause,” Vice Chairman Abbe Lowell told WTOP. “The Mock Trials have been around since 1994. We have been blessed to have Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sam Alito, Justice Breyer, Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor.”

While last summer welcomed current Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, this week’s virtual event features longtime Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

“Justice Breyer has joined us before,” Lowell said. “He is always terrific in terms of having done his homework. I remember one time Justice Breyer asked the participating lawyers questions by doing a rap, he’s infused it with foreign languages, and he’s even sung on an occasion. … I think the judges enjoy it as much as the audience does.”

Justice Breyer will preside over an appellate-style bench of local judges, including Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, U.S. States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; Judge Amit Mehta, U.S. District Court for D.C.; Judge Joshua Deahl, D.C. Court of Appeals; and retired Judge Thomas Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Arguing the case will be two lawyers: Makan Delrahim, former Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, versus Andrew Weissmann, former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation currently practicing at Jenner & Block LLP.

Pamela Talkin, former Marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court, will serve as the Marshal.

The case involves a contentious plot point from Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.”

“‘The Winter’s Tale’ includes the royal court in Sicily, the jealousies of the king, a constant theme in Shakespeare about whether his spouse has been faithful and an accusation where she ends up being cast away and turned into stone,” Lowell said.

A legal issue arises when the queen’s assistant steps in to save her.

“One of her aides whisks her away and gets her out of the grasp of the king,” Lowell said. “The legal issue becomes whether or not that assistant basically violated the king and queen’s rights to have a full relationship and whether she infused emotional distress on the people for keeping them apart.”

It’s just the latest court case derived from Shakespeare’s classic works.

“In ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ we had a case that centered on whether the friar, who didn’t make it in time and therefore caused the death of Romeo & Juliet, was liable,” Lowell said. “The mock trial I did in June involved ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ exploring whether people who make contracts are excused [during a pandemic], if it’s an act of God.”

Audiences can cast their own judgment before the panel renders its verdict.

“We had over 1,000 subscriptions the first time,” Lowell said. “We estimate that as many as 1,500 [watched] … from all over the United States and abroad. … In the future, we’ll probably do both in the theater and also have a subscription [online].”

Tickets are $30 but free for students. Please RSVP here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Shakespeare Theatre's Mock Trial (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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