Little Rock Central High School won first place in the Arkansas Bar Association's Regional High School Mock Trial Competition held March 2 at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, with Springdale High School Team One placing second.
Both teams now advance to the state level in Little Rock on March 9 where they will vie for national competition.
Little Rock Central High participants were Sarthak Garg, Ryan Gauger, Ian Goza, John Harpool, David Xiang, Joseph Hwang, Astha Mittal, Maddison Perry and Drew Ricciardone.
Their sponsoring teacher was Kathleen Holladay and attorney coaches were Clarke Tucker and Matt Wells.
Springdale High School Team One roster included Alejandra Campos, Hayley Cate, Alissa Chadwick, Zena Chavez, Austin Dederich, Rachel Engledowl, Robby Hoskins and Candice Kinnamon. The team’s sponsoring teacher was Melanie Thresher, and their attorney coach was Brooke Ellen Lockhart.
Local attorneys who served as judges for the competition were Sebastian County Circuit Judges James Cox and Jim Spears, as well as attorneys Deborah Avillon, David Ferguson, Claude Hawkins, Kevin Hickey, Keith M. Kannett, Barney Long, Barrett Milam, Ryan Norris, Charlotte Scott and Sam Terry.
Lynn Lisk of Fort Smith, program director and assistant professor in the Legal Assistance/Paralegal Program at UAFS, said the competition teaches high school students about the legal system and how it works. He called the competition "an invaluable tool."
"This gives students a first-hand view of what occurs in a real trial," said Lisk. "It also mixes fun with learning in a way that the students carry the information with them into their future lives."
The trial materials were provided by the Mock Trial Committee of the Arkansas Bar Association. Lisk said the trial presented a negligence action involving a high-speed chase that ended with a fatality. He said the plaintiff alleged that a police officer unnecessarily pursued a speeder in a high-speed chase and that, as a result of that chase, caused the victim’s death. The defense, according to Lisk, claimed that it was not negligent in pursuing the speeding vehicle and that the victim’s own negligence contributed to his death.
The students involved and their attorney coaches knew all about the case before they presented it at competition, Lisk explained. Each team downloaded and used the trial materials supplied by the Mock Trial Committee, including witness statements and pleadings. Then, according to Lisk, some students prepared to serve as the plaintiff and defense attorneys and some read and studied the statements of the witnesses and the facts of the case. During the mock trial, they played the roles of the witnesses and were subject to direct and cross-examination by the student lawyers.
In addition to Little Rock Central High and Springdale High School Team One, other teams competing were Springdale Har-ber, Springdale High Team T and Arkansas School for the Blind.
This is the seventh year the competition has been held at UAFS.
Lisk is the regional director for the competition and serves on the Arkansas Bar Association's mock trial committee. He came to UAFS in 2004, is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Colorado and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the 5th, 8th and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, as well as the Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts for Arkansas and the Northern District of Texas. In January, he was reappointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court to the Continuing Legal Education Board.
The Arkansas Bar Association is a voluntary, statewide association with more than 5,000 attorney members.