Omaha’s Duchesne Academy Wins State High School Mock Trial Championship 12/19/14 12/19/14 12:04:10 AM
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– Photos by Lorraine BoydOmaha’s Duchesne Academy captures first place in the annual State High School Mock Trial competition, besting six-time winner Skutt Catholic High School, also of Omaha. The students, their teacher-coaches, lawyer-coaches and Judge Lyle Strom are pictured here.
Omaha’s Duchesne Academy Wins
State High School Mock Trial Championship
Representing the prosecution side of the case (selected by a coin-toss), State of Nebraska vs. Gayle Gardener, the Duchesne Academy Mock Trial team prevailed over the team from Omaha’s V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School to claim the 2014 Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial Championship.
This is the first win for Duchesne Academy. They defeated the six-time winners of Skutt Catholic, breaking their five-year winning streak.
Judge Lyle E. Strom, Senior Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, presided over the trial. The two-day championship, involving 12 teams from mock trial regions around the state, took place at the Sarpy County Courthouse in Papillion.
Doris Huffman, executive director of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation, which sponsors the Mock Trial competition, noted that this year’s top two teams were incredibly close in the scoring – coming down to a one-point difference. She said that testified to the excellence of those teams, and of all the competitors.
The teams who won their regional competitions and the right to compete on the state level were Region One, Gering; Region Two, Ogallala; Region Three, Dundy County-Stratton; Region Four, Ainsworth; Region Five, Northwest of Grand Island; Reg-ion Six, Lutheran High Northeast of Norfolk; Region Seven, Scotus Central Catholic of Columbus; Region Eight, Platteview; Region Nine, HTRS; and Region Eleven/Twelve, Duchesne Academy and Skutt Catholic.
Each team participated in three trials after which the top two teams were determined. The case presented by all team involved gnome factory owner Gayle Gardener who was accused of intentionally setting fire to the factory in which the custodian died of smoke inhalation and asphyxiation. More than 60 attorneys from Sarpy and Douglas counties volunteered their time to serve as judges for the state championship.
The Duchesne team, along with its coaches, teacher Adam Klepper and Omaha attorneys Mark Laughlin, Pat Cooper and Jacqueline DeLuca of Fraser Stryker; and Gerald Laughlin of Baird Holm, will travel to Raleigh, N.C., in May to represent Nebras-ka in the National High School Mock Trial Championship. The trip is partially underwritten by the Nebraska Council of School Attorneys and the Nebraska State Bar Foundation, sponsor of the Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial Project in Nebraska.
Duchesne team members are Taylor Anderson, Claire Benedix, Ariana Haddad, Collette Hanusek, Molly Laughlin, Elizabeth Matthews, Divya Nimmagadda and Natalie Taylor.
Members of the Skutt team are Sini Chen, Christina Jasper, Jacob Koperski, Brittany Margritz, Mary Ninneman, Grace Smith, Marie Wagner, and Nick Wagner. Mary Meyer and Erin Borchers are their teacher coaches, and attorney coaches are Patrick Borchers, director of the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution; attorney Judy Borchers; and Assistant Douglas County attorney Erin Hurley.
Each year, a group of Nebraska attorneys research and author an original case. The 2014 Case Committee was chaired by Tom Keefe of Lincoln. Members included Lincoln attorneys Kristi Egger-Brown, Stephanie Hupp, John Jelkin, Joel Nelson, and Lory Pasold, in addition to Michael Gooch of Omaha and Patrick Calkins of Seward.
On the first evening of the event, students enjoyed the annual Mock Trial Banquet sponsored by Creighton University. The Winthrop and Frances Lane Foundation provided a grant to help defray the travel expenses of Mock Trial teams from Greater Nebraska to travel to the state competition.
Metropolitan Community College (MCC) provided gifts of learning to the Duchene and Skutt team members. MCC has been involved in supporting the Mock Trial program since 2006.
The Nebraska State Bar Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to serve the profession and the public. It sponsors numerous law-related education programs for the public, including Mock Trial. McCook attorney Stan Goodwin is the Bar Foundation’s president.
Omaha’s Skutt Catholic is the runner up in the annual State High School Mock Trial competition, defeated by first-time winner Duchesne Academy, also of Omaha. The students, their teacher-coach, lawyer-coaches and Judge Lyle Strom are pictured here.
Doris Huffman leads the Foundation’s sponsorship of the Mock Trial event, named for Judge Lyle Strom (above).