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Home-schoolers win state's mock trial contest

Students at Beaverton's Village Home Education Resource Center top teams from large high schools.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of the Beaverton-based Village Home Education Resource Center's state champion Mock Trial Competition team are (from left): Anna Mueller, Elena Allen, Nicholas Hammond, Elizabeth Matos, Claren Walker, Julia Mueller, Katie Golab and Quinton Weinstein.Home-schooled students who take classes through a Beaverton program out-dueled students from some of the biggest high schools in the area for the right to represent Oregon at the 2015 National High School Mock Trial Championship.

In the finals of a state mock trial competition Saturday, students affiliated with Village Home Education Resource Center ousted West Linn High School, the 2014 state champions.

The eight-member Village Home team now advances to the national competition May 14-16 in Raleigh, N.C.

“It’s incredible just to think about how much work we put into it,” said junior Julia Mueller, 17. “We’re all still in shock.”

Village Home has just over 100 students in high school grades. The program, with headquarters and a campus on Southwest Watson Avenue, is not a school itself but offers a variety of classes intended to provide a well-rounded education for home-schooled students, said director Lori Walker.

Many of the mock trial teams were from large schools or programs that had been competing in the mock trials for much longer than Village Home, which started entering about five years ago, Walker said.

“Everyone is so proud of them,” she said. “This is a huge accomplishment.”

Walker said the winning team, the most experienced of three Village Home teams that competed at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, has members who are particularly adept at thinking on their feet.

“You can practice a lot, but then you get into the courtroom and things happen that you can’t predict,” she said.

Mueller, who lives in Beaverton, said many good teams competed in the mock trials but everyone knew West Linn was among the top contenders.

“When we realized we were up against them, we knew we really had to go for it,” said Mueller, the daughter of two attorneys who is considering a career in law herself. “We knew we had to bring our A game.”

Mueller’s teammates are seniors Claren Walker and Quinton Weinstein; juniors Elena Allen, Katie Golab, Nicholas Hammond and Elizabeth Matos; and freshman Anna Mueller. (Weinstein is a former Village Home participant who now attends school in the Beaverton School District.)

Lori Walker said the team will raise money to attend the national competition next month.

Attorney Barbara Smythe and Village Home teacher Terry Purcell coached the team, with assistance from alumni Ben Wood and Grace Lafferty and parent Chris Allen.

This year students argued Avery Leon v. Chinook County Transportation District and Lindsey Palmer, a fictional civil rights case centering on a police officer’s alleged use of excessive force. In four rounds over two days, students assumed the roles of attorneys and witnesses, arguing the case from either the perspective of the plaintiff or the defendant.

After three rounds, Riverdale High School in Southwest Portland claimed third place and Jesuit High School in Beaverton was fourth among teams from 17 high schools, some of which brought multiple teams.

The fourth and final round between Village Home and West Linn was presided over by an elite panel of judges: Michael H. Simon, U.S. District Court judge; Michael Alexander, CEO of the Urban League of Portland; Lisa Collins, Portland Public Schools; Professor Jennifer Johnson, Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School; and Nan Waller, Presiding Judge of the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Oregon’s high school mock trial competition is sponsored by Classroom Law Project and co-sponsored by Lewis & Clark Law School, Oregon State Bar and the Oregon Law Foundation.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
email: eapalategui@commnewspapers.com
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