Duchesne Academy, Coached by Judge Stefanie Martinez, Wins 2019 Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial Nebraska Competition

Duchesne Academy, Coached by Judge Stefanie Martinez, Wins 2019 Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial Nebraska Competition

Duchesne Academy, Coached by Judge Stefanie Martinez, Wins 2019 Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial Nebraska Competition

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Omaha placed first in the 2019 Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial State Championship.

The competition took place Monday and Tuesday at the Lancaster County Justice and Law Enforcement Center in Lincoln.

Duchesne will represent Nebraska May 6-9 at the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Evansville, Indiana.

Members of the winning team are Juliana Angel, Sophie Geis, Raleigh Kreis, Sofia Martinez-Thibodeau, Joslyn Panzer, Dorothy Roland and Sabrina Sulaymanova. Teacher coach for the winning team is Brenda Thoene, and the volunteer attorney coaches are Judge
Stefanie Martinez and Gerald Laughlin.

Taking second place was Creighton Preparatory of Omaha. The teacher who coached the team is Lisa Cook, and the volunteer attorney coaches are Mark Laughlin and Patrick Cooper. Members of the team are William Harper, Benjamin Kramer, Ryan Laughlin, Mason Mandolfo, Matthew Mandolfo, Dominic Mendlik and Christopher Nubel.

Damon Bennett of Northwest High School in Grand Island was named the winner of the Mock Trial Student News Reporter Contest, an educational component added to the Mock Trial competition. Six students entered the second annual contest as part of their Mock Trial teams. The contest was developed by the Nebraska State Bar Foundation’s Bench Media Committee in cooperation with the Nebraska Broadcasters Association.

Third place in the Mock Trial competition went to Scotus Central Catholic in Columbus and the team’s teacher coach, Alison Timoney, and attorney coaches, Jason Mielak and Erik Klutman. Fourth place went to Wayne High School and Josh Johnson, teacher coach, and retired Judge Bob Ensz, attorney coach.

In all, 12 teams from schools across Nebraska took part in the two-day competition, Dec. 9 and 10. in Lincoln. Teams advanced to the State Championship by winning their regional competitions. The annual Judge Lyle Strom High School Mock Trial State Championship is administered by the Law-Related Education Committee of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation with the support of the legal community and Nebraska’s judges.

This is the 31st year for Mock Trial, the longest running of the Foundation’s LRE programs. The program is named in honor of Retired Senior Judge Lyle Strom of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. The competition originated with the Nebraska Supreme Court, beginning in 1983,

“Congratulations to all 12 teams competing in the 2019 State Championship here in Lincoln. You are here tonight because of your outstanding work ethic, your dedication, your understanding of the legal system and your development of courtroom trial skills,” said Steve Guenzel of Lincoln, president of the Bar Foundation, at an awards banquet Monday night at Embassy Suites.

“The High School Mock Trial Program is a sterling example of the kinds of efforts needed for each of us to live out our civic responsibilities. Mock Trial participants demonstrate the highest standards of conduct, including civility, empathy and professionalism,” Guenzel said. The Bar Foundation’s theme for its Law-Related Education Programs in 2020 is “Educate to
Engage: Citizenship through Civics.”

Guenzel told the students that Mock Trial is more than winning the state title. “It is about understanding the legal system, practicing civility in our discourse and our behavior and upholding the strong tradition of fairness, equality and decorum that is the underpinning of the American judicial system.”

Coordinators for Region 10, the host of this year’s State Championship competition, were Lancaster District Court Judge John Colborn and Lancaster County Judge Laurie Yardley. The coordinator for Region 11/12 in the Omaha area was Douglas County Judge Tom Harmon, who recently received the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Distinguished Judge Award for his role as regional coordinator in the Mock Trial Program.

Teams competing in the State Championship and their teacher coaches and attorney
coaches include the following:

Region 11/12
Duchesne Academy, Omaha - Brenda Thoene, teacher; Hon. Stefanie Martinez and Gerald Laughlin, attorney coaches.

Creighton Prep High School, Omaha - Lisa Cook, teacher; Mark Laughlin and Patrick Cooper, attorney coaches.

Region 10
York High School - Jane Brogan, teacher; Kent Rauert, Kelly Thomas and Steve Fillman, attorney coaches.

Region 9
Fillmore Central High School - Coby Smith, teacher; Lucas Swartzendruber, attorney coach.

Region 8
Bellevue West High School - Megan Flynn, teacher; Todd West, attorney coach.

Region 7
Columbus Scotus Central Catholic - Alison Timoney, teacher; Jason Mielak and Erik Klutman,attorney coaches.

Region 6
Wayne High School - Josh Johnson, teacher; Retired Judge Bob Ensz, attorney coach.

Region 5
Grand Island Northwest High School - Brian Gibson, teacher; Jennifer Kearney, attorney coach.

Region 4
Ainsworth High School - Mary Rau, teacher.

Region 3
Dundy County Stratton High School - Tracy Peckham, teacher; Ashley Spahn, attorney coach.

Region 2
Ogallala High School - Chrissa Schlake, teacher; Robert Harvoy, attorney coach.

Region 1
Gering High School - Andy Stobel, teacher; Bell Island and Brandon Panattoni, attorney


Photo: Duchesne Academy Mock Trial team with coaches and Cheryl Zwart, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Nebraska.