Complete with courtroom objections and witnesses under oath, students from three area high schools faced off in Toledo Municipal Court yesterday for an area mock trial competition.
One of the two teams from Sylvania Southview High School, Team Lucas, took the title and will proceed to a regional competition Feb. 22. Sylvania Southview beat out other teams from St. Francis de Sales High School and St. Ursula Academy.
Though legal adviser and attorney Dennis Lyle of Sylvania Southview's winning Team Lucas said he's proud of the title, the real prize is his students' "willingness to try to stretch their minds."
The mock trial competition, which is through the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, had area students arguing the hypothetical case of a church allowing the homeless to squat on their property versus a make-believe city of Urbanopolis that didn't want them gathered there. The trials, which were each judged by a three-member panel of attorneys, judges, or magistrates, gave teenagers a chance to experience court in a real way.
"It does worlds for self-confidence, and it's another activity that's not sports," St. Francis legal adviser and attorney Dick Malone said.
Confidence is key in the courtroom, said St. Francis senior Mike Yakumithis, 17, who played a defense attorney backing the city in the hypothetical case. His team argued that the church was creating a nuisance and public health hazard because homeless were sleeping in stairwells and courtyards without access to restrooms.
"Confidence is the main thing. If you're nervous, judges just rip you apart," he said.
St. Ursula Academy senior Ashley Chavez, 18, played witness as the pastor of the church.
Her side argued that helping the homeless was the cornerstone of the church's mission statement, so the city - by stopping them from doing so - would violate the constitutional right of freedom of religion.
"It's loads of fun," Miss Chavez said of the competition. "But you have to research and know a lot of things off the top of your head."
Both the Yakumithis youth and Miss Chavez were recognized among several others for their performances.
Teams from Edon High School in Williams County, St. John's Jesuit High School, and Wauseon High School in Fulton County didn't attend, but all are asking for a rematch on account of the winter weather.
Notre Dame Academy bowed out earlier this week for other reasons, Toledo Bar Association spokesman Jenna Grubb said.
She added organizers at the state level ultimately will decide whether to allow an exception for any of the no-shows, but rules governing the competition state that teams are expected to compete regardless of weather.
Last year, winners from the Toledo-area competition moved on to a regional in Lima, but where this year's winners will compete will be determined in coming weeks, Ms. Grubb said.
Contact Bridget Tharp at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6061