Hampden mock trial team ousted by Cape Elizabeth

Posted Dec. 10, 2010, at 11:37 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The eight-year winning streak enjoyed by Hampden Academy’s mock trial team came to an end Thursday when students lost a close match to Cape Elizabeth High School in the state final, held at the Cumberland County Courthouse.

The last time the mock trial team from Cape Elizabeth won the state championship was in 2002, the only year Hampden’s team did not make it to the final. Hampden bested Cape Elizabeth in the final in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, according to Hampden coach James McCarthy.

Mark Beaumont, a Bangor lawyer, and Kathryn King, a teacher at Hampden Academy, also coach the mock trial team.

“It was an excellent match,” McCarthy said Friday.

McCarthy, a federal prosecutor, said the students were understandably upset that they would not be going on to compete nationally in Phoenix next spring.

“But they understand the subjective nature of the judging [in mock trial],” McCarthy said. “It’s similar to the judging that’s found in Olympic figure skating. They understand, realize and accept that.”

The presiding judge for the final match was Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The other judges were David Cluchey of the University of Maine Law School in Portland and J. Hillary Billings, a former Bangor lawyer who now works as a federal public defender in Portland.

A year ago, the future of the mock trial program was uncertain. The Maine State Bar Association had sponsored the competition since 2005 but announced last fall that it could not afford to be the sole supporter of the program in 2010.

Julie Finn, coordinator of the mock trial program, said Friday that there is funding to continue the program next fall.

Finn announced in October that the program would go forward this fall due to the fundraising efforts of the Friends of Mock Trial, a nonprofit organization composed of teachers, lawyers and parents. The group raised the $15,000 needed to keep the program going.

A wide range of donors, including the Narragansett Number One Foundation in Bar Mills and the law firm Berman Simmons in Lewiston, saved the program. But a $4,000 donation from Rick and Debbie Lazar of Seattle, Wash., who summer in Maine, and matching funds from the Lazars’ Bangor law firm, Gross, Minsky & Mogul, secured the program’s immediate future.

The Lazars made the donation in memory of their late daughter, Corrie Lazar, who was an active member of her college mock trial group, Finn said in October.

The Friends of Mock Trial will continue their efforts next year, according to Finn.

More than 340 students from 22 high schools in Maine competed in mock trials in 2009, learning valuable skills such as public speaking, the rules of law and persuasive arguments, Finn said in a press release. The number of teams slipped to 19 in 2010.

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