A group of West Jefferson High School students will once again be sharpening their legal skills this week.
Team Vortex, one of the high school’s Mock Trial teams, will be heading to the Franklin County Courthouse on Thursday to compete in the Ohio Mock Trial State Competition. The event is organized by the Ohio Center for Law Related Education (OCLRE).
“We are the only school in Madison County who competes in High School Mock Trial competitions,” said Marla Farbacher, legal advisor for the team. “West Jefferson High School has now competed in High School Mock Trial for seven years.” Students usually get involved early in the school year when cases are first released.
“Each year, OCLRE puts out a Mock Trial case — typically released mid-September. Teams from all across the state register to compete in the District competition,” Farbacher said. “I believe this year 347 teams competed at Districts.”
This year’s case deals with cell phone data and the students have to learn the ins and outs of the case in expert fashion. Throughout the year’s competition, they work on the same case trial to trial.
For the District competition, each team must try the case two times — each time representing both plaintiff and defendant. West Jefferson started the District competition with two teams, Vortex and Fletcher but the latter was eliminated due to not getting all the votes needed for the second trial.
Team Vortex is made up of seniors, Andrew Weber, Thomas Farbacher, Reese Nawman, Jared Vermilion, Hope Lewis, Sarah Haskins and junior, Loraine Stone.
Jenny Siddiqi is the government teacher at West Jefferson and she is the first step in introducing students to the law concepts.
“We spend a lot of time on trial procedures and objections and just how a trial runs,” Siddiqi said. “With Mock Trial we focus on speech skills and a lot of technical information and language. Each year the kids take the class, which they can all four years, and really work hard. A lot goes into being successful.”
Farbacher said that exposure to those concepts helps the students navigate all aspects of the process.
“The participants are assigned roles and each side must have two students in roles as attorneys, and two students in roles as witnesses,” said Farbacher. “At West Jefferson High School, the students learn and start to work on the case as part of a course called Advanced Trial Procedures, taught by Mrs. Siddiqi.”
However, being on the Mock Trial team is also an extracurricular activity, which requires many hours outside of class.
“This is really a fantastic program that provides students another extracurricular opportunity beyond the more traditional clubs and sports,” Farbacher said. “The students really learn how to function in a formal, professional setting, public speaking, legal concepts, and how to think on their feet. They learn to introduce themselves, shake hands, and interact with judges and lawyers.”
There are only 35 teams participating at the State competition. Although the teams may be able to compete in two trials on Thursday, at this point, the teams are in a single elimination competition that has 18 trials starting Thursday morning. Winners from Thursday will then compete on Friday, March 9 and the two final teams will compete in the finals on Saturday, March 10 at the Ohio Statehouse.
Whatever team wins will then go to the National Competition.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.
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