The Catholic University of America

Media Advisory

CUA to Stage Courtroom Drama à la Judge Judy
 WHEN: Monday, April 12, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
 WHERE: The Catholic University of America
Columbus School of Law, Walter S. Slowinski Courtroom
620 Michigan Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C.


In an unusual collaboration between Catholic University’s drama department and its law school, a professor of acting and a graduate acting student are assisting law school colleagues with the staging of an improvised courtroom drama titled Garrett vs. Twin Oaks Hospital. The simulated mediation proceeding employs theater techniques as a means to teach first-year law students.

 As audience members, law students watch a one-hour “play” that assigns motives and agendas, plain and hidden, to its major characters. The exercise drives home the complexity of real-life mediation sessions, and explores the factors that can influence lawyers and their clients. 

An actual mediator, Richard Ugelow, who works for the District of Columbia federal circuit court, will preside over the dramatization.

Actors in the simulated mediation will include Marietta Hedges, assistant professor of drama, playing a hospital chairman, and Mimsi Janis, a graduate student in CUA’s Master of Fine Arts acting program, from Clifton, Va., playing a whistleblower alleging Medicare fraud on the part of the hospital. 

The character parts and motivations were developed by A.G. Harmon, a prize-winning novelist and clinical assistant professor of law. The event, which each year dramatizes a different mediation case, is unique among the nation’s law schools, according to Harmon.

The actors and the law students playing their attorneys will each be given a different sheet explaining their own hidden (and often not remotely law-related) agendas in the case. None of the actors know each others’ hidden agenda, but all is revealed to members of the audience, who are handed a one-page sheet detailing the secrets.

“The clients’ and lawyers’ confidential agendas are varied, ranging from the noble to the strategic to the downright vindictive,” says Harmon.

The purpose of the simulated mediation is to enhance appreciation among law students for the human passions, hidden dynamics and secret facts that can influence any mediation or court case. Attorneys may not know all the facts about their own client, much less those of the opposing party, and the courtroom drama exercise drives home how difficult it can be to arrive at a settlement that placates everyone.

This is the second year that Harmon has recruited acting faculty and graduate students to embody the passions of the litigants. In last year’s legal potboiler, for example, the plaintiff’s attorney sees a therapist for habitual procrastination. She has an unsettling history of filing motions to disqualify opposing attorneys and it's nearly gotten her disbarred. Opposing counsel is a serial womanizer scrambling for big paydays to feed his five children with three wives.

In short, the tale was all too human, and the same will be true this year.

This year’s fictitious case is one that the students of Harmon’s “Lawyering Skills” course have been using as a means to prepare briefs and arguments throughout the spring semester. The simulated mediation is a collaboration with Olivia Farrar, a visiting lawyering skills instructor at CUA.

 SPONSOR: CUA’s Columbus School of Law
 MEDIA: To cover the lecture, contact Tom Haederle, director of public relations for CUA’s Columbus School of Law, at 202-319-5438.