Students from across the state compete as they assume the roles of attorneys…
Smokey Barn News Monday February 17, 2014 Springfield, TN
Springfield High School Mock Trial Team Headed to State
When the Springfield High School Mock Trial Team held their first meeting in October, the students made a commitment. “We all agreed that we wanted to win the district and qualify for State,” said Reena Patel, a senior defense attorney and four-year Mock Trial veteran. “We had placed second in the district for two years, and we all were determined to earn the top spot this year.”
To reach their goal, the students practiced late after school three days a week and on several Saturdays. Their dedication paid off. At the Mock Trial District Competition held at the Gallatin Courthouse February 14-15, Springfield was named the Outstanding High School Mock Trial Team and will represent the district at the State Competition. Olivia Harris, an SHS senior who plays the role of the defendant, said, “When the judges called our name as the district champions, we literally jumped for joy. We had all worked so hard, and it was great to see our dedication pay off.”
The High School Mock Trial Competition is an annual event sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association/Young Lawyers Division. Students from across the state compete as they assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a model case, which may concern either a civil or criminal matter. Student prosecution and defense teams battle to win a favorable a judgment by staging a virtual trial that includes opening and closing statements, direct and cross examinations of student witnesses, and the introduction and use of exhibits. Area judges and lawyers act as the jury and award points for the testimony of student witnesses and for the legal skills and courtroom demeanor of student attorneys.
In the 2014 model case, the plaintiff, a struggling musician, claims that a song she wrote was stolen by a music industry professional, and she is suing for copyright infringement. At bar for SHS as plaintiff attorneys are Kylie Ronnow, Crystal Lemus, and Anighya Crocker. Plaintiff witnesses include Susannah White playing the role of the struggling musician plaintiff, Grace Shoemaker as an expert in musicology, and Charlotte Padfield as a country music fan. Representing the defendant are attorneys Maddie Loving, Reena Patel, and Anighya Crocker, who doubles as a plaintiff attorney. Defense witnesses are Olivia Harris, playing the role of the music industry professional who is being sued, Juwan Cross as an expert in music theory and composition, and Sarah Jones as an eyewitness. Seth Brown is the team alternate. Magistrate Lisa Richter and attorney Marisa Combs serve as attorney coaches for the team. Springfield High teachers Leslie Diehm and Tim Overstreet are the school advisors.
After the first day of competition, Springfield was in second place to Beech High School, last year’s district winners, by 20 points out of a possible 1200. “We felt good about being in the top two at that point,” said Anighya Crocker, a Springfield freshman and team attorney. “The goal was to be one of the two highest-scoring teams at the end of the preliminary rounds. Those two teams face off in a final power round to determine the district champion.”
At the end of the preliminary rounds of competition on Saturday, the Mock Trial District Coordinator presented awards for team and individual achievements. Springfield High School won both of the team awards for preliminary round play, bringing home honors for Highest Round Score and for Most Verdicts. SHS won the Highest Round Score award by earning bonus points during a plaintiff round and scoring 309 out of a possible 300. Plaintiff attorney Kylie Ronnow said, “It often seems that your team has to turn in an almost perfect performance to score in the 280’s or 290’s, so earning such a huge score made us all very proud.”
Springfield also brought home individual honors. Maddie Loving, a four-year Mock Trial veteran and senior at SHS earned two awards. For her superior performance as an attorney, Loving was named the 2014 Outstanding Defense Attorney for the district. “Because of the fact pattern, it was very difficult to put together the defense side of the case,” said Loving. “We put hours and hours of work into our presentation, and it felt great to win an award for that.”
Loving also was selected for the highest individual honor awarded at the district level, the Bryce Ruth Award. Bryce Ruth was a beloved attorney who practiced law in White House and coached Mock Trial teams throughout his career. The award that bears his name is presented to the one student who best exemplifies the Mock Trial spirit of preparation, presentation, courtroom demeanor, fair play and sportsmanship. Loving had been the runner-up for the award in 2013. “This is my last year of high school Mock Trial competition, so it was really special to earn the Bryce Ruth Award,” commented Loving. “Mock Trial has been a focus of my life for four years, and I am just so honored.”
After the team and individual awards were announced, the two top-scoring teams that would compete head-to-head in the final round were named: Springfield’s plaintiff would go against Beech’s defense. “We were ready. We had worked hard all year for this moment, and we gave it everything we had,” said plaintiff attorney Crystal Lemus. After the round, both teams waited for the scorers to determine which team had won and would compete at State. “After finishing the round, we were on pins and needles waiting for the decision. When the judges called ‘Springfield’ as the district champs, I think we all screamed, and then I think we all cried,” said Susannah White, an SHS senior who plays the role of the plaintiff.
The Springfield High Mock Trial Team will join the top 15 to 20 teams in the state at the Metro Nashville Courthouse March 14-15 for the Tennessee High School State Mock Trial Competition.
If you are not familiar with Mock Trial Competitions; it is not a class, it is an extra curricular activity that students are encouraged try out for, according to Leslie Diehm, a SHS Social Studies Teacher. It means that the students really want to be a part of the competition.
We should be very proud of these students, not only for their exemplary academic achievement but also for the fine example they portray for other students and community.
Smokey will continue to track their progress throughout the rest of the competition, so stay tuned for further updates.
Jim Ball reporting
Smokey Barn News
Leslie Diehm contributed to this story.
Photo credit: Bill Diehm
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