By Curtis Carden
Members of the Unicoi County High School Mock Trial team had the opportunity to showcase their talents in a dress rehearsal of sorts, while raising money for a cause this weekend.
The team held a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society on Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Unicoi County Courthouse as part of their preparations for the regional competition scheduled for this weekend in Jonesborough.
The weather did not cooperate, attorney coach Sarah Shults said with a laugh, but we had around 75 people for the event and raised around $620 for the American Cancer Society.
Shults serves as an attorney coach, along with Town of Unicoi Attorney Lois Shults-Davis. UCHS teachers Thad Higgins and Chad Roller serve as the teacher representatives for the squad.
Sundays event saw Lisa Nidiffer Rice, criminal judge with the 1st Judicial District, serve as the judge for the contest as the team worked through the entertaining trial of Ashton Stepinghuf v. Thorobern Appliances, Inc.
The case, Shults said, involves a cowgirl attempting to sue a company for a defect in a trailer. Along with providing a plaintiff and a defense, the 12-member team worked to show their talents to the packed courtroom.
It is a very entertaining case, Shults said. The plaintiff is suing the company for a fault in the refrigerator on the trailer and the defense is alleging she caused the fire herself and was suing to get out of the contract. There are two expert witness as cowgirls and two scientists.
UCHS students Carter Powers, Elizabeth Sutphin and Christin Leon served as attorneys for the plaintiff as Rachel Lynch, Alex Lamie and Isaish Tipton worked with the defense. Aurora Whitson, Alex Carter, Brenna Jones, Katie Larimer, Olivia Brackens and Daniel Campbell worked as witnesses. Megan Todd and Leanna Hager serve as alternates for the squad.
We have four students off last years team, Shults said. They have done a good job of practicing with the other members of the team and helping coach the new ones. I feel like we have a very strong team … theyve worked hard with a very busy schedule because of the snow days at the high school. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being on the team.
UCHS is no stranger to showing the prowess in the courtroom. For the past two years, the team has finished seventh at the statewide competition.
Things are looking a bit different for this years regional competition due to an expanded pool of high schools in the district, Shults said. With eight teams set to compete on Saturday, Feb. 20, in Jonesborough, only one team will have the opportunity to punch their ticket to the upcoming state event that will be hosted on March 18-19 in Nashville.
The last two years, UCHS has been seventh in the state, Shults said. Were hoping to do even better this year, but the competition will be tough. No matter how things go, Im extremely proud of the team and the work theyve put in for mock trial.
High school mock trial is offered by the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA). An update on times for the event in Jonesborough was unavailable at The Erwin Records press deadline. Shults said the schedule for the event will depend on the weather.