2003 Mock Trial Results

Chattanooga team repeats as national mock trial champ

Sen. David Fowler presents members of the 2003 national championship mock trial team to the Tennessee Senate, which honored the group with a resolution praising the accomplishments.

Members of the 2003 national championship Mock Trial competition gather around coaches Jeffrey Atherton and Matthew Hargraves. They are, from left, Tyler Randolf, Beth Coleman, Joshua Downer, Amber Gruber, Matthew Downer and Anna Downer. (Photo courtesy of Caryn Stinson.)

The Tennessee State High School Mock Trial winners became the first ever to successfully repeat as national champions during competiton in New Orleans on Saturday (May 10).

The group of six Chattanooga homeschoolers received winning ballots from all judges in all rounds and scored the highest cumulative point total ever in the national high school mock trial championship competition.

The team, which represents Family Christian Academy, consists of Beth Coleman, Amber Gruber, Tyler Randolph, and siblings Anna, Joshua, and Matthew Downer. They were coached by Jeff Atherton, an attorney with the Chattanooga law firm of Milligan, Barry, Hensley, and Evans. Atherton is a homeschooling father of four and the vice-president of the local homeschool association. He has coached the Chattanooga homeschool mock trial teams for the past 12 years.

Atherton was assisted by fellow Chattanooga attorney and homeschool graduate Matthew Hargraves, an associate with Luther Anderson. Hargraves was a member of the first mock trial team coached by Atherton.

A total of 44 teams representing 42 states and the Marianas Islands competed in the national competition. Each team competed in four rounds of competition prior to the championship round. The Tennessee team had scrimmage rounds against teams representing Alaska, Arizona, Alabama and Florida, before facing teams from Oregon and North Carolina on Friday and Iowa and Minnesota on Saturday.

After the four competition rounds, the teams were ranked on won/lost records, total number of scoring ballots received and then, if applicable, the total number of points from each ballot. At the conclusion of the first four rounds, there were three undefeated teams, so the determination of the participants in the finals was dependent upon the number of ballots.

In the championship round the Tennessee team represented the defendants against a Colorado team representing the plaintiff. The final round had seven scoring judges, who unanimously gave the victory to the Tennessee team.

The mock trial case was based on a hypothetical lawsuit concerning fraud in a high school election. The theme of the case was very similar to issues raised in Florida in the 2000 election for the President of the United States.

The team qualified for the national competition by winning Tennessee's State High School Mock Trial Championship in March. The event, sponsored by the TBA's Young Lawyer's Division, drew 19 teams from across the state who had won district-level competitions.

Stan Graham, an attorney with Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, was chair of this year's YLD Mock Trail Committee.

Chattanooga team repeats as state mock trial champs

Members of the 2003 Tennessee State High School Mock Trial Competition gather around coaches Jeffrey Atherton and Matthew Hargraves outside the Metro Nashville Davidson County Courthouse. They are, from left, Tyler Randolf, Amber Gruber, Beth Coleman, Joshua Downer, Matthew Downer and AnnaDowner.
NASHVILLE (March 10, 2003) — Two Chattanooga teams were among the top winners of the Tennessee Bar Association’s State High School Mock Trial Competition this weekend, with first place going to Family Christian Academy, a home school organization. The McCallie School won third place.

Chattanooga attorney Jeff Atherton, who practices law with Milligan, Barry, Hensley & Evans, is Family Christian’s coach. It was the second trip to the championship in Nashville for the home school organization — they won the state competition last year, too. They’ll now be on their way to the national championship in New Orleans. They made a similar trip last year when they competed in St. Paul, Minn., and took home Tennessee’s first-ever national mock trial title.

The competition was held Friday and Saturday at the Metro Nashville Davidson County Courthouse, with the final match-up presided over by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder. The competition, in its 23rd year, involved more than 200 students and 200 volunteers, mostly lawyers, law students and judges. McCallie’s attorney coach is John Harrison, who practices law with Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell. Bob Oliver is the teacher sponsor.

The award for Best Witness went to Tyler Randolph of Family Christian Academy.

Best Advocate was won by Ankita Baxi of Germantown’s Houston High School. Second place went to Houston, and fourth place was won by one of the two teams fielded by Nashville’s Harpeth Hall.

Nineteen teams from across the state competed. To reach the state competition, teams had to win their district competitions by playing the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a case concocted by the TBA Young Lawyers Division. This year the case involved a drive-by-shooting murder of a high school student.

Stan Graham, an attorney with Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, was chair of this year's YLD Mock Trail Committee.
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