Eleven HomeLife Academy students will compete in the District 13 High School Mock Trial Competition this month in Jackson. The team will compete against Dyersburg High School and the winner will head to Nashville in March for the Tennessee High School Mock Trial Competition. The advancing team will compete against teams from 13 other districts across the state of Tennessee in this two-day competition. One interesting thing about the mock trial competition is that it is not solely about the plaintiff or the defense winning the case. Instead, the purpose behind the competition is to see how well students present the case and have a strong understanding of basic courtroom procedure, the case they are arguing and basic legal concepts. During two rounds of competition, each team presents both sides of the case (plaintiff one round and defense one round) and the combined score determines whether a team advances to the next phase of competition.
“The winner is decided by how well each side (plaintiff and defense) is able to present a basic understanding of the law and the case itself as a team,” said Criminal and Family Law Attorney Kortney D. Simmons, who has been preparing the students for the competition since August. “The scoring system is based on several things – the character of the witnesses and how they are portrayed, how well the attorney handles a basic understanding of the law and of the case, the presentation and more. It’s a variety of things.”
Attorney Simmons is the District 13 Representative for the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. She finished Middle Tennessee State University in 2007 with a BS in International Relations and the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2011. Simmons has practiced law for five years and is a partner at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC in Jackson. She simply defines mock trial as “legal drama”.
Nothing conjures drama more than a scene from a courtroom hearing. This year the problem (case) involves a horse trailer that caught on fire, possibly due to faulty wiring in the refrigerator, which the refrigerator company denies. The company states the wiring in the refrigerator was altered after purchase. This has given the team a lot of material to bring the dramatic story to life in the courtroom. All of the district teams receive the same problem.
To ensure the team would be prepared, Simmons began coaching them almost three months before the problem was released in November. She spent those months going over trial basics, so when the problem was released, they would be able to begin working on their presentation.
“Practice for my team is handled like a classroom and they have homework. In the beginning, I explained to them what each part entails, like an opening statement, closing argument, direct and cross examinations, objections and pretrial motions,” said Simmons. “We also went through the basics of a trial, different parts of a trial, all of the different players in a trial and how a trial is supposed to operate. Since we spent the time going over that information, I don’t have to stop and explain everything now. When I say that is ‘hearsay’, the kids know what I am talking about.”
Simmons gained experience with mock trials while she was an undergrad in college. She has been involved on the local and state level working with teens since 2011.
“It is just something fun I like to do and it is a way for me to give back to the community and the kids,” said Simmons, who describes her job as a lawyer as being very fulfilling, because she is able to help people. “There are many benefits for kids who participate in mock trial and they don’t have to want to pursue a career in law.”
She went on to share that mock trial gives the student an opportunity to work on public speaking and dealing with different types of issues and points of view.
“Students have to do both the plaintiff and defense and I think it helps with critical thinking, problem solving and just being a little more analytical. It also helps break people out of their shell and build character,” said Simmons, who has seen the growth in confidence in presentation from some of the returning team members.
Mock Trial is free to students to participate in and open to ninth through twelfth graders. An interest meeting is held every August for students and their parents. If you want to catch the team in action in mock trial formation, they will be presenting Tuesday, February 23 at the Madison County Courthouse in Jackson at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
To learn more about the Tennessee High School Mock Trial homeschool team, contact KaBao McCarver at (731) 234-2510 or e-mail Angela McKee.
2016 Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition, March 18-19 in Nashville
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©2016 HomeLife Academy. Article by Jennifer Smeltser. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the publisher /.