Mock Trial competition held at courthouse

February 10th, 2008    Author: Michael Bradley    Filed Under: News

Four Clermont County high schools competed in the American Mock Trial Association’s annual competition held in county courtrooms Feb. 1.

The high schools representing Clermont County included New Richmond, Batavia, Glen Este, and Clermont Northeastern.

Ohio’s largest academic competition, the mock trials are designed to allow students to play the dual roles of attorneys and witnesses and to also be prepared to argue both sides of a case.

Clermont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerry McBride, the competition organizer, said that each team, competing in two trials, were judged on creativity and persuasiveness.

The Glen Este High School team. From left, Alex Woll, Kaleb Tovien, Chris Speer, Nick Santiago, Caleb Walker, Melissa Vontz, Lynette Fenchel, Ritika Shah, and Taylor Webb.
At issue this year was a disagreement between a church's free exercise of religion and a city's wish to prevent a public nuisance. The church is permitting homeless people to sleep and camp on the church steps; due to alleged crime and public health issues, the city has been ousting the homeless from church property.

"We have been working on our case for several months now," said Clermont Northeastern senior and lead defense attorney Chris Hodge. "We are all looking forward to the experience."

Although CNE placed 14th overall in the mock trial competition, social studies teacher Misty Goetz said all the participating students were winners.

"The experience is what counts," Goetz said. "The kids learn about the government, how the justice system works, how to think on their feet, self-confidence, and teamwork. All of these kids are winners."

Other schools taking part in the competition included Eastern Brown, Georgetown, Fayetteville-Perry, Lynchburg-Clay, North Adams, Reading, Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington, Western Brown, and Wilmington.

Georgetown High School, which captured first place, will advance to the regional level to compete statewide. The state's winning team will be eligible to compete in the national mock trial competition to be held this May.

Owensville attorney Michaela Stagnaro, who was the law advisor for the Clermont Northeastern team, said that watching the teams in action reminded her of the first time she argued a case.

"Considering the enormous stress the students were under, they all did awesome," Stagnaro said. "They worked so hard to prepare, and I hope they are as proud of themselves as we are."

CNE student T.J. White said that the experience was fun and rewarding.

"When you are up there and proving your point, you just don't want to stop," he said. "It was a great experience. I cannot wait until next year."

The competition was sponsored by the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, Clermont Municipal Court, and the Clermont Bar Association.
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