THE TATE HIGH SCHOOL mock trial team from Escambia County, coached by attorney Travis Johnson and teacher Angela Sapp, will represent Florida in the National High School Mock Trial Finals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in May.
Florida High School Mock Trial Competition brings talent and civility
Jesse Woodson, accused of aggravated battery and cyber-bullying, was prosecuted and defended by high school students from across the state in the Florida High School Mock Trial Competition.
Sponsored by The Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., this year’s competition drew winning student teams from 18 judicial circuits.
Competing for the opportunity to represent Florida in the National High School Mock Trial Finals, Tate High School in Escambia County took top honors. The Tate High team was victorious after four rounds of competition and a final round in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando in March.
The Tate High School team was coached by attorney Travis Johnson from Pensacola and teacher Angela Sapp.
“Travis provides the legal expertise, and I help with the drama coaching/character development training,” Sapp said.
Tate High School student Asia Cravens won the “Best Attorney Award” for her presentations throughout the competition.
Second place went to the Community School of Naples.
“It was a close match, which is what it should be at this level,” said Annette Boyd Pitts, executive director of FLREA.
This is the 22nd year of the statewide event, funded in part by The Florida Bar Foundation.
“These were truly some of the best student presentations I have seen in the nation,” said William Ginsburg, president of the ABOTA Foundation, who came from California to speak at the event and to serve as a judge.
“They were as good or better than the law school competitions I have judged.”
Third- through fifth-place honors went to American Heritage School of Broward County; Lincoln High School of Leon County; and Fletcher High School of Duval County.
The mock trial competition opened with keynote speaker Harry Lee Anstead, a former justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Anstead spoke on professionalism and civility as he encouraged students to be friendly and ethical throughout the event.
Teams advance from school competitions to county competitions to circuit competitions before representing their circuits at the state competition.
Students learn about the legal system, court procedures, and judicial decision-making through their participation.
Each team must be prepared to argue both sides of the same fact pattern, helping them experience a more balanced perspective of justice.
More than 150 lawyers and judges volunteer to evaluate the students and serve as presiding and scoring judges throughout the event.
“I look forward to this program every year,” said attorney Julie Walbroel of Orlando, who serves annually as a volunteer in every round.
Judges from the Ninth Judicial Circuit, as well as Brevard and Manatee counties, assisted with the presiding judge roles.
“It is so important to have judges and trial attorneys participate in every round,” said Erin Crowe, FLREA program coordinator for competition.
“They not only evaluate the students, but they also offer valuable critiques at the conclusion of each round.”
Tate High School will represent Florida in the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in May.
The final round of the Florida High School Mock Trial Competition is available on the website of the Forida Law Related Education Association at under “Mock Trial.”