GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Teen Court Mock Trial Team successfully defended its title over the weekend of Nov, 7-8 at the FSU Sunshine State Showdown. The team didn’t lose in four …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Teen Court Mock Trial Team successfully defended its title over the weekend of Nov, 7-8 at the FSU Sunshine State Showdown. The team didn’t lose in four rounds, defeating 12 teams to become back-to-back state champions.
Teams from all over Florida competed, including Bolles, Miami Arts Studio, American Heritage, Stanton College Preparatory, Lakeland Christian and Hialeah.
The team was assigned a case they had to prepare according to normal legal procedures such as reading witness statements, exhibits, objections and evidence rules.
Coach Kendra New, a Green Cove Springs lawyer, is a veteran of the program, who practices corporate, civil and estate law.
Team member Linnea Stuart won an award for the top attorney and scored the highest points for the plaintiff and defense. Stuart is a home-schooled senior who also is enrolled at St. John’s River State College.
“Part of our home school program is we do an eighth-grade mock trial every year,” said Stuart. She was advised to join Teen Court, and she did. “I really enjoy being a part of Teen Court just to be able to mentor other kids who are the same age as I am and going through a lot of the same problems that I do.
“I think that as attorneys, we’re able to empathize a bit better. I like doing mock trials because of the community around it. The kids who do mock trials are incredibly excited, enthusiastic, and really eager to learn. I just love being around those kinds of people, and they’re great friends to me.”
Mock trial differs slightly from Teen Court, in that the mock trial focuses more on the competition aspect while Teen Court is a diversionary program for young people who may stray onto the wrong path. Stuart intends to pursue a double major in philosophy and mathematics for her undergraduate degree and then go on to law school. She is uncertain what type of attorney she wants to be but is looking toward intellectual property or appellate law.
Stacey Smith is the Teen Court Supervisor.
“This is the third year we have competed in the competition, and it is the second year we have placed first. We were the only team this year that went undefeated in all four rounds,” said Smith. “So we came home winners for the second year in a row. Last year we were also the only team that went undefeated in all four rounds.”
Lily Maxwell also is home-schooled and attends St. John’s River St. College. She is another team member who came across the program while doing the mock trial project like Stuart.
“I’m the courtroom coordinator. I’m basically kind of like a glorified secretary. I really work more behind the scenes with everyone,” Maxwell said. “What I really enjoy about it is just being with everyone and spending time there and just the atmosphere there as well as helping the kids. Especially some of the defendants. They actually turn out to be really good people.”
Maxwell doesn’t intend to become an attorney; she is working towards becoming a veterinarian.
She says the team was shocked last year after winning their first title in the event.
“Last year when we won it the first time it was a complete shock, It was actually our second time competing, and the first year we didn’t place. I was so happy and excited. This year, I wouldn’t say it was foreseen. We were all nervous about it but to be honest, I had complete faith in Linnea [Stuart] because she had done the online trial format before, and she really helped us prepare for it.”
This year, the competition was held via zoom to ensure everyone followed COVID-19 protocols during the competition.
Both competitors recommend other young people get involved with the Teen Court and Mock Trial Programs.
“Both Teen Court and mock trial have been very rewarding experiences,” Maxwell said. “Not only do you get community service hours, but it’s honestly just a great experience to be around people. A lot of them are the nicest people you’re going to ever meet, and you learn a lot.”