Dallas Bar Association

Americas High School Heads to State Mock Trial Competition

by Jessica D. Smith

After a long legal battle and numerous performances on the courtroom floor, on Saturday, March 5, Americas High School of El Paso, Texas took home the title of State High School Mock Trial Champion. They beat 23 other teams and became the first team from El Paso to be crowned the Texas High School Mock Trial State Champion. They will represent Texas at the National Mock Trial Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.

The final round was presided over by U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn at the Earle Cabell Federal Building. Amercias High School and Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School of Dallas went head-to-head, with the victory going to the team from El Paso. Teams rounding out the top four included St. Thomas Episcopal High School of Houston and Skyline High School of Dallas.

Serving as “jurors” for the final event were Barry Sorrels, DBA President; Laura Benitez Geisler, DBA Director; Michele Wong Krause, DBA Director; Carlos Morales, DHBA President-Elect; Eunice Kim Nakamura, DAABA President; Steven Russell, DBA Mock Trial Committee Co-Vice Chair; and Brad Weber, DBA Chairman of the Board.

Each year, the hypothetical case is written by Dallas attorneys on the Dallas Bar Association Mock Trial Committee, which is co-chaired this year by Steve Gwinn, of Suzanne I. Calvert & Associates, and Justice Lana Myers. Vice chairs are Prater Monning, of Monning & Wynne, L.L.P., and Steven Russell, of Russell & Wright, PLLC. This year’s hypothetical criminal case was Texoma v. Sitka Spruce, in which the defendant was charged with coercion of a public servant.

On Saturday, March 5, an awards luncheon was held for the 24 teams who made it to the state competition. Awards presented included Outstanding Advocate, which went to Zach Fields of Americas High School, and Outstanding Witness, which was presented to Noelle Low of Booker T. Washington Arts High School. In addition, Decatur High School and St. Thomas Episcopal High School were awarded the Team Professionalism Award, which is voted on by the student’s mock trial peers.

The Dallas Bar Association has sponsored and coordinated the Texas High School Mock Trial Program since its inception in the 1970s. Thousands of high school students from across the state participate each year in this highly motivating, energetic and challenging academic competition. The program provides a great way for students to gain an “insider’s view” of the judicial system. In addition, they gain confidence in public speaking and have a lot of fun at the same time. The program allows for students to participate in numerous roles associated with the trial process—from witness to defense attorney to plaintiffs’ attorney.

In its 32-year history, the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition has had more than 120,000 participants and has awarded approximately $300,000 in scholarships at the local, regional and state levels. The Dallas Bar thanks the following contributors to the 2011 Texas High School Mock Trial: The Robert A. and Marianne S. Gwinn Family Foundation, Thomas P. Goranson, Peter G. Malouf, DBA Tort & Insurance Practice Section, DBA Business Litigation Section and the Dallas Bar Foundation.

Jessica D. Smith is the DBA’s Communications/Media Director. She can be reached at jsmith@dallasbar.org.

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