Mount Carmel School emerged as this year’s champion in the 18th Annual NMI High School Mock Trial held last Thursday and Friday at the House of Justice.
The school’s student attorneys and witnesses went head to head with Marianas High School’s team in an intense final round in a standing room only Supreme Court. MCS and MHS argued the fictitious case of Douglas v. Harrison as the defense and plaintiff, respectively.
Jose Castro, Arron Cushing, Lance Deleon Guerrero, Zeno Deleon Guerrero Jr., Jaqueline Doctor, You Jin Jun, Kiyoun Kim, Angelo Manese, Justin Ocampo, Michael Roy E. Ortizo, Sung Hun Ryu, and Monica Aira B. Usi will be the Commonwealth’s representatives at the national high school mock trial tilt in Boise, Idaho from May 12-14.
The students were coached by MCS president Galvin Deleon Guerrero and adjunct teacher Kevin Bautista as well as attorney Joseph L.G. Taijeron.
Steven L. Hansen, a former judge for the Fourth Judicial District in Utah County, presided over the final round.
This year’s championship was the sixth for MCS, which also represented the islands in 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, and in 1999.
Kagman High School, Grace Christian Academy, Rota’s Dr. Rita H. Inos Jr./Sr. High School, and Tinian Jr./Sr. High School participated in the competition. Defending champion Saipan Southern High School did not take part in this year’s tilt.
In his sixth year competing in both junior high and high school mock trial, MCS mock trial captain and senior Sung Hun Ryu was misty-eyed after hearing of his team’s win.
He said, “Every year I join this competition knowing that the work load is overwhelming. However, I always end up joining not just to win, but to create a unique bond with the team and more memories.”
“It took me a [while] to process the fact that we even won,” MCS student attorney Lance Deleon Guerrero said. “It was too close of a round, and even if we lost, I would still be satisfied. MHS is a great team with great sportsmanship, and I’m honored to have just competed against them.”
School president Guerrero, for his part, said that the team was “fortunate to go up against a team as good as MHS in the championship round because they brought out the best in our team.”
He added, “If it weren’t for them, we would not have done so well. Now, we look forward to representing the CNMI well at nationals.”
He noted that in the history of the CNMI’s performance in the nationals, MCS is the only team that has two national awards, once in 2008 for Letitia Cabrera’s performance as a witness and again in 2010 for Anastasia Schweiger’s performance as a witness.
“We’re committed to doing just as well, if not better, in Boise,” he said.
Bautista, an MCS alumnus and former mock trial champion, said that he is “more stressed as a coach than I was as a student.” He added,” We have a lot of talent and it was really a team effort and how everyone worked collaboratively that led us to this point.”
MCS took home the competition’s new “championship perpetual gavel” donated by the Office of the Governor and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
In his remarks Chief Justice Alexandro Castro lauded all the students, teacher coaches, and attorneys for their hard work and dedication. He emphasized that the winning team now represents the entire Commonwealth and not just their school.
“Go on and compete hard for the islands at nationals,” he said.
Tinian Jr./Sr. High School bagged the Supreme Court Professionalism Award for exemplifying the guiding principles of advocacy—professionalism, courtesy, and respect to the judges, jurors, fellow participants and the justice system.
“We worked hard every week to prepare for this and I feel that our team did our best in each round,” Tinian senior Gerald Crisostomo said.
Plaques were presented to outstanding student attorneys and witnesses for the plaintiff and defense as well.
MHS’ Robert Malate was named best plaintiff attorney while GCA’s Yujin Lee and MHS’ Olivia Hirsh tied for best defense attorney. Alvin Arcega and Tiffany Cayading won best plaintiff and defense witness, respectively.
The Mock Trial committee adopted a national competition tradition this year and recognized seniors who have distinguished themselves through their commitment in participation in the competition for three or four years. Rota students Raenna Mae E. Aldabe, Izzamil A. Camacho, and Antonette G. Sabangan received the new award along with Marianas High School students Angela Aninon, Alvin Arcega, Kadi Camacho, and Devonne Dotts. Sung Hun Ryu from Mount Carmel School and Odorico San Nicolas of Tinian Jr. & Sr. High School were also recipients.
It was the first competition for Rota freshmen Adina Reyes, who explained that her team conducted their practices with attorney coaches over video teleconference, which she said made it difficult to have smooth practices due to weak Internet connectivity. “We made the best of what we had and pulled through. We are really happy to be here and compete,” she said. “ I want to be an attorney one day.”
MCS now awaits the announcement of the national trial case topic, followed scrimmages with local attorneys at the CNMI Judiciary in preparation for the national competition. This year’s sponsors are the CNMI Judiciary, CNMI Bar Association, and Public School System.
Event officials explained that Mock Trial creates a bridge between the students and the legal profession and provides students firsthand experience with the judicial system.