Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 5, 2021

Local students Zoom to mock trial championship

Just as lawyers, judges and jurors have been convening virtually to try cases during the pandemic, high school students across Tennessee recently assembled via Zoom to participate in regional mock trial tournaments.

The Tennessee Bar Association organized the COVID-friendly competitions – held in each of the state’s grand divisions – to give teams an opportunity to qualify for its upcoming statewide contest.

Nineteen teams from Hamilton County took part in the eastern division tournament, which took place Feb. 19-21. Three of those advanced to state.

After recording wins in its three qualifying rounds, Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association 1 defeated Girls Preparatory School 1 in the grand division championship to emerge as the eastern division’s victor.

Teams from Girls Preparatory School claimed the next three spots, with GPS 1 through 3 placing second through fourth, respectively.

As the winner, CSTHEA 1 will advance to the statewide competition, to be held virtually March 19-21. GPS 1 and 2 also won bids to state.

The TBA presented several individual awards to Hamilton County students, as well. Volunteer judges and jurors from across the eastern division named Isis Cantrell of GPS 1 Best Plaintiff Attorney, Paul Atherton of CSTHEA 1 Best Defense Attorney and Julia Combs of GPS 1 as Best Plaintiff Witness,

Other individual winners Lauren Thacker (GPS 1) as Second-Best Plaintiff Attorney, Camille Schmied (Signal Mountain High School 1) as Second-Best Defense Witness, Ben Bierly (McCallie School 1) as Third-Best Plaintiff Witness and Fletcher Ard (McCallie School 2) as Third-Best Defense Witness.

GPS coach Judge Brian House credited the success of the school’s teams to dedication and hard work.

“It’s been a challenging year, but our students rose to the occasion,” House says. “They represented themselves and their school with class. I’m honored to have been able to coach them and be part of their success.”

House and attorney Tammy Combs note the virtual format worked well, with only occasional hiccups. During a match between GPS 2 and GPS 5, for example, a witness lost her internet connection and had to phone in the rest of her testimony.

“Even though the students missed being in the courtroom, they were also very glad to have the opportunity to compete virtually,” Combs says.

In the end, the judges and jurors said the students taught them how to better handle issues while conducting online hearings, and even claimed the students were better courtroom lawyers than some practicing attorneys.

“It’s truly an honor to work with these students and be a part of this program,” Combs adds.

The compete roster of Hamilton County schools that entered the TBA’s regional mock trial competition includes Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (two teams); CSTEHA (two teams) East Hamilton High School (two teams); GPS; Hixson High School (one team); McCallie High School (four teams) and Signal Mountain (three teams).