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Oklahoma Bar Journal

Mock Trial: Fictional Case Requires Students to Develop Real-World Skills

By Kevin H. Cunningham

On Tuesday evening, March 5, the top two high school mock trial teams met for the final round of competition to determine the state winner. For the second consecutive year, the final teams were from the same high school. The 2019 Oklahoma High School Mock Trial Program final round was won by Owasso Team Quadstone after defeating Owasso Team Heisenberg. The Quadstone team will now represent the state of Oklahoma at the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Athens, Georgia, this May.

The winning team is comprised of competitors Jesse Anderson, Hayley Campbell, Melody Carney, Kelli Casteel, Emma Donohue, Avery Hendel, Ciara Locker, Maggie Murphy and Cole Wyrick. Attorney coaches for the team are Judge Daman Cantrell and Ken Underwood. The teacher coach is Kathy Rutherford. While the case at issue was a work of fiction, the competitors developed real-world skills and talent to prevail.

This year the case at issue dealt with a civil claim for wrongful death of a high school student due to alleged bullying. A surviving family member brought the suit against the defendant – a fellow student accused of engaging in bullying during school hours as well as after school hours. The bullying included in-person statements, statements made online and through direct electronic communication. The case involved a difficult topic that is unfortunately all-too-common in today’s society.

Competitors were tasked with preparing both sides of the matter and then prosecuting and defending the claims alleged during multiple rounds of competition. This case provided a unique opportunity for participants to consider how conduct that occurs too often can affect so many people, directly and indirectly. The students had to analyze the subject matter from the family’s perspective, the school’s perspective and the defendant’s perspective. Students had to filter through information that was not important or relevant to reach the facts needed to present each side of the controversy. The ability to critically think through an issue from multiple perspectives is a life-long skill that will serve the competitors throughout their futures.

More than 40 teams from 27 schools located across the entire state participated in the competition. While many high school sports in this state are divided into districts based on the relative size of the school, the mock trial program allows a home school program to field a team against the largest school district in Oklahoma. Much like the equal treatment given to all persons and entities within the courtroom walls of a real-life trial, the competitors are treated as equals during the mock trial competition. Experiencing how the legal system seeks to treat all equally will hopefully develop an appreciation for one of the foundations on which our country is built – a fair and impartial court system.

A new component to the program was added this year – best courtroom artist. Contestants were given one hour while a mock trial was underway to complete their drawing. Artists were judged on how their drawing told the story of the event taking place, composition, color/contrast and authenticity in conveying a professional feeling.

Presiding judge for the final round was Retired Judge Edward Cunningham, who has been involved with the competition since 1982. Scoring panelists were Judge Jane Wiseman, Judge Paul Cleary, Judge Shon Erwin, Judge Dana Rasure and Judge Jodi Jayne. Each of the scoring panelists is a current sitting judge and the panel, collectively, possesses decades of experience and involvement with the mock trial program. In fact, Judges Jane Wiseman and Dana Rasure were involved in the creation of the competition.

This program would not exist without the work of hundreds of volunteers. Each year, over 400 judges and attorneys donate time to work with mock trial teams directly, to score and judge the teams throughout the competition, and, as members of the Mock Trial Committee, to plan, prepare, write, conduct and oversee the competition.

The Oklahoma Bar Foundation is the principal financial supporter of this competition and without their generosity, the generational impact this program has developed since inception simply would not exist. Thank you on behalf of the committee and all involved for supporting the 2019 Oklahoma High School Mock Trial Program.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Cunningham practices in Mustang and serves as chairperson of the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial Committee.

Trial Site Coordinators
Andrea Medley****
Michael Nesser**
Brittany Hayes
Lydia Anderson Fields**
Kevin Cunningham**
Deresa Gray**
Kathryn Walker
Pat Layden
April McClure
Leah Terrill-NesSmith
Carolyn Thompson**
Melissa Peros
Todd Murray
Anne Mize**

Presiding and Scoring Panelist Volunteers
Kim Adams
Retired Judge Glenn Adams
Tyler Allbery
Cindy Allen
Lynn Anderson
Nick Atwood
Judge Luke Barteaux*
Jerry Bass
Mindy Beare
Matt Beese
Kristina Bell
Lew Berkowitz**
Howard Berkson****
Kirsten Bernhardt
Brandon Bickle
Wes Billingsley
Kelly Bishop*
Ed Blau
John Boozer
Cody Bowlin
Jennifer Bridyforth*
Pamela Brown
Mary Bundren
Julie Bushyhead
Dietmar Caudle
Jason Christopher*
Christina Condren
Erick Cook
Billy Coyle
John Cramer
Dan Crawford *****
Joe Crosthwait
Kevin Cunningham
Retired Judge Edward Cunningham*****
Jacob Daniel
Daniel Delluomo
Chance Denton
Kara Didier
Bob Dill
Susan Dobbins
Jordan Doigleish
Allyson Dow
Blake Dutcher
David Echols
Joshua Edwards*
Judge Shon Erwin***
Greg Farrar
Craig Fitzgerald
Lydia Fields
Mark Fields
Jeff Fischer
Grant Fitz*
Brooke Folsom*
Bill Ford
Becki Francy
Michell Freeman
Ben Fu
Jodi Gage
Charles Geister
Robert Getchell
Scott Goode
Julie Gragg-Landes
Daniel Gray
Mark Graziano***
Kerry Green
David Guten
Deborah Hackler
Judge Sarah Hall
John Hammons
Alex Handley
James Hankins*
Howard Haralson*
John Hargrave
Judge Barbara Hatfield
Scott Hawkins
Brittany Hayes*
Gaylon Hayes
Clay Hillis
Kurt Hoffman***
Michon Hughes
Jessica Hunt
Rebecca Hunter
Judge Lori Jackson
Judge Crystal Jackson
Natalia Jacobson
Brittany Jewett
Rick Knighton
Kent Larason
Laci Lawson
Shelley Levisay
Niki Lindsey
Nicole Longwell
Kristy Loyall
Janice Loyd
Mark Lyons
John Martino
Kevyn Mattax*
J.W. McBee
Natalee McClure
Jacqueline McCormick
Judge Jack McCurdy
Leah Messner
Mike Miller
Anne Mize
Chad Moody
Bryan Morris
Beth Muckala
Ben Munda
Ann Murray
Todd Murray
Jody Nathan
Drew Neville*
David Nimmo
Brenda Nipp
Kerri Norris
Brandi Nowakowski
Earl Ogletree
Mark Osby
Jenna Owens
Christina Pappas
Matt Patterson
Suzanne Pointer
Barrett Powers
T.J. Prentice
Ellen Quinton
Ryan Reaves
Dale Rex*
Michael Ridgeway
Lisa Riggs**
Thomas Robertson*
Timila Rother
Nancy Rothman*
Jacob Rowe*
Steve Ruby
Magda Rucka
Mark Schwebke****
Randall Sewell
Gessica Sewell
Michael Sexton
James Shaw
Judge Steven Shreder
Kristin Siegel
Kim Slinkard
Toni Smith
Rusty Smith
Karen Smith***
David Smith
Nicole Snapp-Holloway
Traci Soderstorm
Susan Stallings
Luke Stevens
Jim Stuart
Chuck Sullivan
Thomas Swafford
Jeffrey Taylor
Paiten Taylor-Qualls*
Kathryn Terry
Andrew Tevington
Michael Trevino
Roy Tucker
Scott Tully
Georgenia VanTuyl**
Laina Vaughn
Judge Caroline Wall
Austin Walters
Mark Warman*
Kenneth Watson
Weston Watts
M. Welch
Lucas West*
Roger Wiley
John Young

Attorney Coaches
Ranada Adams
Luke Adams
John Andrew
Clifton Baker
Eli Bland
Retired Judge James Bland
Judge Daman Cantrell
Eric Cavett
Stephana Colbert
Angie Dean
Chance Deaton
Deirdre Dexter
Eddie Forarer
Valery Giebel
Randy Gill
Eric Grantham
Celo Harrel
Terry Harrison
Clifford Heckert
William Hickman
Andrew Hofland
Mike Horn
Linda Samuel-Jaha
Aaron Johnson
Chris Jones
Judge Douglas Kirkley
Steve Kunzweiler
Jennifer Lawmaster
Nicole Longwell
Blake Lynch
Tom Maxcey
Brian McLaughlin
Mike Miller
Judge Tim Mills
Anthony Moore
Rob Neal
Ellen Quinton
Lorie Rogers
Adam Scharn
Judge Matt Sheets
Desmond Sides
David Smith
Connie Smothermon
Richard Smothermon
Bob Speed
Laura Thomas
Carolyn Thompson
Ken Underwood
Kyle Wasson
Judge Jill Weedon

* Denotes multiple times

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 90 pg. 52 (April 2019)