South Mountain: Law Magnet Competes in a Number of Regional State and National Competitions

Posted by Communications on 4/19/2017

Every year, South Mountain’s Law Magnet competes in a number of regional, state and national competitions.  The competitions run year round in terms of preparation and qualifying events and conclude typically in March/April. 


Moot Court is a competition that all students enrolled in Matthew Smith’s Government and the Law classes, where two opposing attorneys argue about what the law should be regarding a Constitutional question.  They must use previous decisions made by actual courts.  The local competition, held in November is used to choose the competitors who will represent South Mountain and ASU Law School in the Marshall-Brennan National Competition.  Over 500 urban high school students participate in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project nationally, studying constitutional law with law-school students.  The project is named after former Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan.  This year’s National Competition was held in late March at Suffolk Law School in Boston Massachusetts.


Five students, Alexis Rosales, Andrea Gomez, Michael Kulitea, A’Lira Underwood and Mariah Quintero competed nationally.  South Mountain continued its streak of advancing to the National semi-finals for the ninth year, the only high school in the country to have a competitor in every semi-final in the program’s history.  This year South was the only high school to have three competitors advance to the semis, with  Underwood,  Kulitea and Quintero advancing.  Quintero advanced  to the finals and finished as the National Runner-Up.  She is the fourth South Mountain student to advance to the finals in our history.


South Mountain has been partnered with ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law over the past nine years – one of the most successful partnerships in the country.  This year, eight Marshall-Brennan Fellows from ASU worked with South Mountain’s students  In addition, the program has been coordinated the past two years by Marshall Brennan Fellow Casey Clowes.  In addition, ASU Assistant Dean Ray English provided administrative support for this program as he works to build a mentor program called High School Inns of Court, which will provide more Moot Court opportunities for South in the future, according to Law Magnet program manager Matthew Smith.


Mock Trial is a program where students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses in representing both sides of a hypothetical case.


This year, South Mountain sent three teams to the two Maricopa County regionals, the most difficult region in the state.  Team Purple consisting of Mariah Quintero, Alexis Rosales, A’Lira Underwood, Gabriel Montes, Miranda Robles, Michael Kulitea and timekeeper Christina Juarez proved to be one of the best teams in the state.  They went 3-1, defeating a state qualifier Xavier team and losing a heartbreaker to the Academy of the Arts team that ultimately finished as 

State Runner-Up.  Team Purple lost out on final round of qualifying for a state tournament bid on a tiebreaker.    Gabriel Montes was named to the All Region Team.


The mock trial students represent the plaintiff in some rounds and the defendant in other rounds.  In every competition phase, the students presented an opening statement, examine three witnesses (portrayed by their teammates), cross-examine the other team’s witnesses and present a closing argument.  Each student plays the role of an attorney on one side of the case and a witness on the other.  Each round is presented in front of a real judge who rules on objections and court matters.  The jury is a panel of three practicing attorneys or judges. The team that captures the best of three judges scoring wins the round.  


The South Mountain Mock Trial teams are coached by   Matthew Smith and Andrea Bartlett-Sargent from the Law Magnet.  In addition, attorney Jason Gellman and Commissioner Lisa VandenBerg provide legal advice, coaching and support to the South Mountain teams.


South Mountain's Moot Court Program has produced two National Champions-  Eugenia Anane-Wae  in 2014 and Ambra Jordan   in 2009.