Students hone legal skills
Published 9:50 pm Thursday, May 16, 2013
Two legal eagles from Nansemond River High School have shown they know their way around a courtroom after winning their Model Judiciary case at the Supreme Court of Virginia.
A panel of legal professionals, including actual Supreme Court judges, ruled that Michael Govan and Rachel York put up a convincing argument during the April 19 contest.
“When you get to the Supreme Court round, you have 10 minutes, or a little longer, to argue your case,” said team coordinator Holly Saunders, a U.S. history teacher.
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“They are official judges, and they interpret your presentation, ask questions, and you are judged on how well you answer. (The students) are sort of put on the spot.”
The students progressed to the final round after first arguing their case during a “trial” in Norfolk Circuit Court, complete with witnesses and jury.
The fate of the Suffolk students was in the hands of jurors played by students from other schools.
Then the Nansemond River team argued before appellate judges during the appeals round in Chesapeake.
Govan, a senior, explained the case they argued throughout the competition, Brubaker v. McCoy: “Our client got bitten by a wolfhound, and he was suing for personal injury.”
At the Supreme Court, a dozen teams were paired for the competition. Nansemond River was one of six schools to win its bout.
“They had a reception afterward with Supreme Court judges, and they got to talk to the judges about their presentations,” Saunders said.
Both students said they signed up for Model Judiciary, a Virginia Bar Association program, after Saunders mentioned it to them in U.S. history.
“It’s the closest thing to a debate team we have at the school,” York said.
Govan plans to earn a living as an attorney. “It’s good for my skill set,” he said. “I’m good at speaking publicly and writing.”
“I haven’t decided for sure on a career yet,” York said.
It was Nansemond River’s third year taking part in the competition, which Saunders said gives students “real-life situations, and it gives them exposure to the judicial system.”
“It gives them experience in debating and public speaking, and I think it’s a real confidence booster,” she added.
Both Nansemond River students said the competition was stressful at various points.
“I’d say it got kind of stressful” during the Supreme Court round, Govan said, while York said, “For me, it was more stressful during the appeals round.”