Submitted Photo
Sequim High School’s Mock Trial club practices in Port Townsend for an upcoming competition.

Submitted Photo Sequim High School’s Mock Trial club practices in Port Townsend for an upcoming competition.

Sequim High Mock Trial Club to compete at state

Youths take honors in first season with community support

SEQUIM — Galaxy Murray says reviewing the case file details has made her a better listener.

Brody Andersen says he has better skills to argue with people, and that he even cross-examines his brother.

Ayden Humphries says he’s learned to be quick-thinking and how to shape questions to get the answers he’s looking for.

Finishing up an after-school practice at Sequim High’s H building, retired judge Susan Fisch grins.

“They’ve learned all of this since October,” she says, adding with a laugh, “in their ‘spare time.’ ”

And they learned well.

Earlier this school year, Sequim High School formed its first Mock Trial club. With 14 members, the club competed in its first regional competition the first week of February.

They took second place.

The team, now in its first season, advanced to the state competition March 24-26 in Thurston County, presenting opening and closing arguments and fulfilling roles as prosecuting and defense attorneys and as witnesses.

Assisting along the way are Fisch; Patrice Johnston, a Sequim School Board director and retired family law attorney who practiced law in Seattle for nearly 30 years, and social studies teacher Saralyn Pozernick, the club’s main advisor.

The club got its origin story, Pozernick noted, when Fisch contacted SHS principal Erin Fox about starting a club.

“I was happy to see it [formed], but I have no expertise,” Pozernick said.

“Our budget when we started this,” Fisch said, “was zero.”

Enter the League of Women Voters of Clallam County.

Bonnie Bless-Boenish, civics education chair for the group, said the organization came through with a $700 civics education grant it obtained through the WA League of Women Voters Education Fund.

Along with some SHS Associated Student Body funds, the club had the money to cover associated costs (transportation to and entry into competitions, supplies, etc.).

Without the donation, Pozernick said, “I’m not sure we’d be able to get this off the ground.”

The regional competition on Feb. 3-4 at the Kitsap County Superior Court in Port Orchard was run through the Seattle YMCA. It presented students in October with a fictional case based on real-life incidents, with the goal “to develop an understanding of real life case law and the role of the court system in a democratic society.”

“Swat the Fly,” a criminal case was, “meant to give students a deeper understanding of the issues that courts face when deciding who is accountable for a painful loss,” program organizers said.

In the fictional case, a child decides to exact revenge for a friend’s over-the-top practical joke. Students take on various roles to present arguments on both sides, learning how to “use reason and evidence in a scenario that is often fraught with raw emotion.”

Competitions are judged by actual attorneys and are staffed by active state judges.

The goal, she said, isn’t for a school to “win” the case, but for students to learn and improve various skills in the courtroom setting.

According to Seattle YMCA, 40 high schools across the state now have Mock Trial clubs, including Port Townsend High School.

Life skills

Club members, a mix of underclassmen and upperclassmen, came to join the club for various reasons and have gained a multitude of skills from their work.

Freshman Laila Sundin said she was always passionate about the environment, and that she was advised to look into law as a career.

“I was so happy to have this club; I love debate, I love philosophy,” she said.

“I think it’s a good life skill. I have a better ability to discuss things, rather than get hot and bothered.”

Grace Rogers, a freshman, said she learned that, unlike television courtroom dramas, there are no shocking moments of new evidence being revealed.

Ruby Coulson, a Sequim High senior who works with the nonpartisan, youth-led Legislative Youth Action Council through Lt. Gov. Denny Heck’s office, said Mock Trial club was needed at SHS.

“There are not a lot of humanity-based clubs at this school,” she said.

“I’d heard about it from other schools; I was so upset we didn’t have it,” Rogers said.

The Sequim students are getting help not only from Fisch, Johnston and Pozernick, but from a number of other entities and individuals throughout the community, advisors note. Students met with lawyers and judges, Sequim police officers, Clallam County prosecutors, the city’s attorney and others, all seeking to help.

“I cannot believe how many people have contacted us to help,” Pozernick said.

“Word has gotten out through the community,” Johnston added.

The Sequim team also connected with the Port Townsend club, one of the top teams in the state in 2022, for a practice workshop in mid-January. There, advisors noted, members of the community turned out to watch the students rehearse.

The club has opened some students’ eyes in terms of their career plans. Amelia Pozernick, Saralyn’s daughter, said she’s learning the skills to be a lawyer, and that she’s changed her college plans from an education track to pre-law.

Rogers said the club has had a profound effect on her, day-to-day.

“Mock Trial has changed the way my brain works. It’s kind of taken over my life right now,” she says, displaying her laptop — emblazoned “Mock Trial” on the screen.

Boenish said two of the club’s students were brave enough to speak at a Sequim City Council meeting in January, advocating for funding of a vocational center for the Sequim School District. (The council on Jan. 23 voted to approve backing of the project to the tune of $250,000.)

“It’s blossoming into civic discussion,” Boenish said. “We look forward to more.”

Sequim High School’s Mock Trial club members include Brody Andersen, Draxxis Anderson, Georgia Bullard, Ruby Coulson, Benjamin Elmenhurst-Jones, Amara Gonzalez, Katherine Gould, Ayden Humphries, Finn Marlow, Galaxy Murray, Amelia Pozernick, Grace Rogers, Laila Sundin and Aaron Tolberd.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

Sequim High student Georgia Bullard shares a lighthearted moment with fellow Mock Trial club members during a practice last week.

Sequim High student Georgia Bullard shares a lighthearted moment with fellow Mock Trial club members during a practice last week.

Sequim High School freshman Laila Sundin answers questions as a witness in a Mock Trial club case at a practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim High School freshman Laila Sundin answers questions as a witness in a Mock Trial club case at a practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Amelia Pozernick works on her opening statement at a Mock Trial practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Amelia Pozernick works on her opening statement at a Mock Trial practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Susan Fisch listens on as Sequim High School students in the school’s first Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Susan Fisch listens on as Sequim High School students in the school’s first Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Finn Marlow scrutinizes a witness during a Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Finn Marlow scrutinizes a witness during a Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Brody Anderson interviews a witness during a Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Brody Anderson interviews a witness during a Mock Trial club practice last week. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Michael Dashiell / Olympic Peninsula News Group
Grace Rogers works on her opening statement during a Mock Trial club practice last week.

Michael Dashiell / Olympic Peninsula News Group Grace Rogers works on her opening statement during a Mock Trial club practice last week.

More in Life

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.

 

(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading

Jaiden Dokken, at Jeanette Best Gallery in Port Townsend, is Northwind Art’s new exhibits coordinator. (Northwind Art)
Poet laureate takes on new role with Northwind Art

Artist, poet and educator Jaiden Dokken is Northwind Art’s… Continue reading

Author John Vaillant stands in front of the iconic tower at Port Angeles City Pier. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Author visits Peninsula for Writer in Residence program

Vaillant awarded Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

A GROWING CONCERN: Volunteers a dream for playground

YOU, MY LOYAL readers, have been excellent the couple of times I… Continue reading

Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

Joanna Gabriel will present the lesson at 11 a.m.… Continue reading