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May It Please The Court

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Congratulations are in order to Xavier High School, of Appleton, Wisconsin. Xavier returned last week from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the school competed in the National High School Mock Trial National Championship. Wisconsin took thirty-second at this year's National Championship (or "Nationals" as it is called among the competitors), and the team has many reasons to feel proud. Xavier has held the title of "State Champs" in Mock Trial, a program run in our state by the Wisconsin State Bar's Law-Related Education section, for three out of the past four years. Last year, in fact, the team placed seventh in the nation, and the competition was so close that mere points separated Xavier from first- and second-place teams. One of the students on the team actually received an award for his participation as an attorney on the team.

The strength of Xavier's program is, in no small part, due to the coaches. Attorney-coaches for the team include Dan Flaherty (Dan's son is the attorney who won the award), Mark Christopher, Judge Mitch Metropulos, and Kevin Lonergan, and Kelli McGreevey is the teacher coach for the team. In the interest of full disclosure (just in case I seem biased in favor of the wonderful coaches Xavier has), I should probably mention that Kevin Lonergan is my dad. Dan Flaherty, Mark Christopher, and Judge Metropulos all have kids who currently participate on the team, and my dad has been coaching ever since my sister, Kristen Lonergan, competed on the team over a decade ago. As a quick aside to show how addictive Mock Trial can be-my sister actually helps write the problem that the students use each year!

Regardless of the team's impressive history at Nationals, it is no simple feat to get to the point of competing in Nationals in the first place; I should know-not only did I compete in the program in high school myself, but I also coach a team. When I was in high school, I would have moved mountains to be able to call myself a State Champ. The closest I ever came to calling myself a State Champ in my four years of high school was participating on a team that took third at State (and a bitter year it was for me, considering we actually beat the second-place team in head-to-head competition). And as if it's not enough that a team has to win at the state level in order to move on to Nationals, and the students actually have to win a regional competition before they are even invited to compete at State. Xavier has been invited to compete in the State competition every year for over a decade now, and that is something for students and coaches alike to be proud of.

For the first time this year, I had the experience of participating in mock trial from a new perspective-the gallery. Prior to this year I had judged mock trial scrimmages, assisted in coaching the Xavier team, and participated on a team myself, but this is the first year I participated in the program as one of two head attorney coaches of a team (my co-coach was Sarah Knutson, of Urban & Taylor, S.C.). My team is a charter school in the Milwaukee Public School system-Professional Learning Institute, or PLI. PLI was the only MPS-affiliated school to participate in the State Bar High School Mock Trial program, and for a first-year team, the students did an incredible job. It was an amazing experience to watch young Milwaukee high school students begin the year with little to no positive experiences with the legal community, and end with an actual understanding of complex legal issues such as hearsay and adverse possession. The students worked incredibly hard at their mock trial work-hard enough that other extracurriculars and paying jobs were often sacrificed to get ready for the competition.

The team participated in the Waukesha regional competition, and ultimately won two and lost two of the four rounds. As a coach, I could not have been more proud of the students than when they stood up in front of local attorneys and circuit court judges and presented a case (and argued objections) with more articulation and understanding of the issues than sometimes even real-life attorneys have.

PLI is just one example of the more than eighty teams around the state who worked hard to prepare for the regional competition and did not advance to State this year. For students on each and every one of those eighty teams, to even have been one of the twelve teams to compete at the state competition would have been exhilarating. To be one of the two teams to advance to the final round, then be announced the State Champs by the Wisconsin Supreme Court would have been a dream come true. Given the hard work and commitment that comes from just preparing a team for the regional tournament ("Regionals" as the students call it), let alone advancing to State and finally preparing a brand new case for Nationals, Xavier High School has many reasons to be proud to hold the title of "Wisconsin High School Mock Trial State Champions."

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