Central High Debate Students Raise the Bar, Again

Little Rock Central High School won first place in the Arkansas Bar Association's Regional High School Mock Trial Competition held March 2 in Ft. Smith. The tem advances to the state level in Little Rock on March 9, 2013, where they will vie for the opportunity to compete at the National High School Mock Trial Championship later this year in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Last year the Central High team won the State Championship and competed for the national title in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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. Mrs. Melinda Bieth and Mr. Bob Goza assisted.

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.