Mia Peterman consults Emma Snyder-Lovera

Freshman attorney Mia Peterman, left, consults with freshman attorney Emma Snyder-Lovera before closing arguments are given at the Feb. 15 regional competition at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. The Orange High School students were taking part in a Mock Trial competition.

PEPPER PIKE — Orange High School students are well represented at the Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition, with four of the school’s seven teams advancing to the statewide event in Columbus this week.

According to mock trial adviser Dave Chordas, this is the first year that Orange has sent four teams to the state competition. Orange is also the only school headed to Columbus with four teams. Other school districts are being represented with up to two teams.

Mr. Chordas said that he has served as the Orange High mock trial adviser since 2001, and has seen the team’s membership and success grow every year. Orange’s four teams will compete against other schools from throughout the state from today through Saturday.

In a mock trial competition, one team is comprised of six to 10 students, according to Mr. Chordas. The students choose to serve as witnesses or attorneys, and are given a case to analyze. The students prepare their own content, including opening statements, closing arguments and questions for witnesses, he explained.

Mr. Chordas said that the team’s biggest strength is their courtroom etiquette.

“Orange is seen as a program that teaches kids how to handle themselves in a courtroom,” he said. “We’re getting compliments on how professional and courteous our kids are in the competition.”

He also credits this year’s success to the addition of one more legal adviser, Scott Heasley of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg and Lewis. Mr. Heasley is an attorney who volunteers with Orange’s all-freshman team to help them prepare and revise their case for competitions. Mr. Heasley is one of several legal advisers who work with the team, including Chief Legal Officer of Progressive Corp. Chuck Jarrett, Orange Board of Education member Jeff Leikin, Jeff Saks of the Saks Law Office and Jeff Ubersax of Jones Day.

“Every team having a legal adviser has helped,” Mr. Chordas said. “It’s a team effort. The advisers get together and come up with strategies, and it’s exciting.”

The students said that they are looking forward to the competition, and are hoping to see the results of their hard work. Senior Andy Saks, 18, of Pepper Pike serves as an attorney for the defense and the prosecution on his team and explained how he has prepared for the state competition.

“A lot of it is trying to understand the legal precedent that gives backing to the case and applying different cases to it,” he said. “We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we want to handle each of our own witnesses and the opposing team’s witnesses.”

Andy said that he has the highest level of confidence in his team.

Senior Ryan Vincent, 18, of Orange Village said that he uses his drama experience to improve his performance as a witness.

“I do a lot of theater, so I go over my role a lot and look at it from an actor’s perspective,” he said.

Mr. Heasley, 44, of Moreland Hills said that he finds great joy in spending time with the students and watching them succeed. He said that the freshmen team continues to exceed his expectations, saying, “They just keep winning.”

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Mr. Heasley said. “I’m getting back more than I’m giving.”

Four assistants also work with the mock trial team, including social studies teacher Mark Kimball, guidance counselor Megan Petronsky, special education teacher Robert Wright and English teacher Miranda Lobas.

Mr. Chordas is expecting his teams to do well at the competition in Columbus this week.

“I always preach confidence,” he said. “I think that our teams will be successful.”

The competition starts today (March 7), and eight of 29 teams will advance to the next day of the tournament on Friday. The final two teams compete on Saturday.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Pepper Pike, Orange and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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