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Young litigators shine at mock trial

CHEER edges West in final

POSTED: February 13, 2013 12:29 a.m.
Autumn Vetter/

CHEER team attorney Abby Swain, left, shows evidence to West Forsyth’s prosecution team, from far right, Adam Harrison-Trent, Nathan Smallwood and Brantly Smallwood.

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Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David Dickinson looked down from his bench during a rare Saturday proceeding.

“Thank you, counsel,” he said, as a 17-year-old in a suit and red bowtie completed his opening remarks in a civil case that drew a crowd to the courtroom.

The regional mock trial competition brought eight teams from area high schools to compete Friday and Saturday for a spot at the state level.

A Johns Creek-based team from Christian Home Educators and Encouragement Resources, or CHEER, took first place after facing West Forsyth in the final round at the Forsyth County Courthouse.

Students from CHEER received the best marks as they argued the fictitious case of a high school band member who had passed out from heat exhaustion while running laps for being late to practice.

The CHEER team represented the band director, arguing that the student’s own negligence caused her to faint and bust her lip, which prevented her from performing that weekend for a chance at a scholarship.

Each seven-person team had three mock attorneys, three witnesses and a timekeeper.

The teens worked for months to prepare their cases, arguing the same scenario in each of the rounds.

The final round was hard fought, with sides making objections as the questioning began.

CHEER team member Abby Swain said she enjoys the competitiveness on an intellectual level.

“I love the excitement of having to stand up there and think on your feet,” Swain said.

CHEER was in the Forsyth County regional for the first time, though this was the homeschool network’s third year in the competition.

West reached the final round for the third year, represented by mock attorney Adam Harrison-Trent, Brantley Smallwood and Nathan Smallwood.

The students credited hours of practice and their attorney coaches for their success in the competition, which Brantley Smallwood said is “a whole lot of fun.”

Regional coordinator Melissa Banker said the three scoring evaluators don’t award a winner of a round, but rather score the teams on how well they perform and make remarks on what the teams did well and where they could improve.

She thanked the local attorneys and judges who gave their time to work with the teens, some of whom could be future lawyers.

“I think it means a lot to the students and I know it means a lot to me that they’re willing to take the time on a Saturday to come in and do that,” Banker said. “They’re worth the time it takes … These are good kids working hard.”

She said the region aims to continually improve and provide “better and stronger teams” to represent the area in the state competition, and perhaps nationals.

 

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