St. Joe pulls top honors

Published 3:41 pm Monday, February 8, 2016

PORTSMOUTH — Ironton St. Joseph argued the winning case in the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education 33rd Annual Ohio Mock Trial District Competition on Jan. 29. South Webster High School was the district runner-up, and more than 3,000 students participated across the state.
Students participated from Ironton St. Joseph, Notre Dame, Minford, Portsmouth, West Portsmouth, Sciotoville Community, South Webster, Valley, and Wheelersburg high schools.

Minford, Portsmouth, Ironton St. Joseph, and South Webster (Team Da Vincis) won both trials and will advance to Regional Competition on Feb. 19. Ironton St. Joseph, coached by Chris Monte, won the local Championship, and South Webster (Team Da Vincis), coached by Cyndy Hykes, won the Runner-Up title locally. The Minford team is coached by Sarah Laxton, and the Portsmouth team by Bruce Kalb.

“They did very well,” said attorney Mark McCown, Ironton St. Joseph legal adviser. “It’s a lot of work, and they put in a lot of work each year. Ironton St. Joe is a very small school. We only have six students on this mock trial team this year, so there was a lot of doubling-up for roles and they put in a lot of hours. They typically practice 3-4 days a week, an hour-and-a-half to two hours a day, in addition to preparing at home.”

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McCown has been the team’s adviser for 19 years, and said Ironton St. Joseph has advanced to regionals or state competitions at least five times during that time. This is their first championship, he said, since 1998.

This year’s case focused on Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures as it applies to use of force by an officer to deter or eliminate threat of harm to the officer or the public.

Each Mock Trial team consists of five to eleven students who prepare both plaintiff and defense cases and participate in two trials against opposing teams. Students assume the roles of witnesses and attorneys to present both sides of an original case based on a constitutional issue.

Students Sydney McCoy, Taylor Golden, Nate Hoover, Anne Marie Raies, Morgan Reedy, Grace Raison, Ashley Smith, Kylie Titer, Gracie Billings, and Makenzie Gleason each won Outstanding Attorney Awards. Students Chase Wagner, Brenton Crabtree, Izaiah Logan, Zachary Bressler, Alyssa Miller, Elizabeth Cassidy, Emily Montgomery, Adam Friend, Camrie Marcum, Mila Anderson, Grace Raison, and Tyrin Johnson won Outstanding Witnesses.

Local judges and attorneys volunteer their time and expertise to preside over and score the mock trials.
“I was the Wheelersburg adviser for many years, and for the last several years I’ve served as a judge,” Judge Matt MacFarland said. “This is a great experience for these high school teens to have exposure to the legal system in a positive way, and to be able to come to the courthouse and participate in the courtroom that we use every day.”

He said he is always impressed by the students participating in the competition.
“The overarching observation I made was just how poised they are. They were poised at the podium. They were poised in the delivery of their arguments. They’re not rattled when they get a really tough objection. They were engaged; they were arguing their objections and they weren’t backing away from their argument,” MacFarland said.

Teams that advance from Regional Competition will take part in the State Competition March 10-12 in Columbus. The state champion will advance to the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Boise, Idaho, May 12-14.

The District Mock Trial is coordinated by Sharee Price, of the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center, and Judge Howard H. Harcha, III. For more information about the ESC, visit online at, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.