Katie Ellington/News The Danville High School Moot Court team poses with their state championship trophy and outstanding petitioner brief plaque. From left are team coach Brittany Whitney, Daniel Patrick, Calvin Huh, Faith Langdon, Adeline Lucas and team coach Noel Alden.
Katie Ellington/News
The Danville High School Moot Court team poses with their state championship trophy and outstanding petitioner brief plaque. From left are team coach Brittany Whitney, Daniel Patrick, Calvin Huh, Faith Langdon, Adeline Lucas and team coach Noel Alden.

DANVILLE — It was the final round of the state moot court competition, and sophomore Faith Langdon was ready. Her opening statement was memorized and her argument was solid. But sometimes crazy things happen in the courtroom.

“They didn’t even let her start the speech,” said team coach Noel Alden. Langdon had landed in front of a hot bench — a group of judges more interested in asking rapid fire questions than hearing a well-rehearsed argument.

“I felt like a deer in headlights,” said Langdon. “You can prearrange a speech, but once you get to a certain point, they’ll just start asking you questions. … You just kind of have to adjust to whatever is happening in the room.”

Langdon admits that she struggled for the first few minutes, but eventually she found her footing.

“You saw her kind of steel herself and start firing back and the last 12 minutes was just magnificent. She got tough,” said Alden.

At the end of the round, Langdon and her teammates rejoiced when the judges announced that Danville High School had won the 2019 Moot Court state title. In addition to earning the championship trophy, Danville also went home with the award for outstanding petitioner’s brief and outstanding appellate attorney, won by junior Calvin Huh.

The win is Danville’s first since it started sending students to the competition five years ago. The Blue Devils had never made it past the semifinals.

This year’s team consisted of Langdon, Huh, junior Adeline Lucas and junior Daniel Patrick. Alden, a practicing attorney and Danville solicitor, and Brittany Whitney, Mount Vernon’s assistant city prosecutor, coached the team.

What makes Danville’s victory all the more impressive is that it came despite being down a team member. After Patrick got a concussion a week before the competition, Huh had to step in, taking on roles in both sides of the case. He competed in seven rounds.

“In one of the rounds, I started giving the wrong speech,” Huh admitted. “But, you know, (have) confidence and you can just transition back into the other one. And no one will be any the wiser, hopefully.”

If anyone was equipped to double up, it was Huh.

“(He) knew almost single every case that was in the case law and it was really impressive to watch him cite those while he was talking,” said sophomore Faith Langdon, who served as an appellate attorney.

“I pulled him aside at one point during the day and said, ‘You need to forget your other plans and become a lawyer,’” said Alden. Huh remembers that moment differently.

“I believe the phrase that was used was, ‘You need to join the dark side,’” he said.

When asked how he stayed sharp throughout the day- long competition, Huh joked that his secret formula was a combination of adrenaline, Chick-fil-A lemonade and a steady stream of K-Pop.

“Hey, it worked! We’re going to have everyone start listening to K-Pop pretty soon,” Alden added.

While there’s plenty of quick witted humor outside the courtroom, the team takes competition very seriously. Moot court is a program put on by the Ohio Center for Law Related Education that requires high schoolers examine a fictional court case and represent both the appellants and appellees during a simulated appeals process.

Each team had just seven weeks to prepare an 18-page legal brief and four oral arguments before presenting them to a panel of judges at the state competition on April 26. Each side had to have both a statutory argument and a constitutional argument. Both the written brief and oral arguments contributed to each school’s overall score.

Each competition round had three judges, with the exception of the final, which had five. The championship panel included Justices Patrick Fischer and Melody Stewart of the Supreme Court of Ohio, Tiffany Carwile and Michael Hendershot of the Ohio attorney general’s office and Ben Tracy of the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals.

This year’s fictional case, Ozzy Mercury versus State of Buckeye, asked students to argue whether or not the constitutional right to bear arms would allow a citizen to keep a firearm and speed loader inside a motor home.

“My argument consisted of two points,” said Lucas, who defended the lower court’s ruling against the motor home resident. “The first is that (the motor home) is a motor vehicle. We used a lot of different case law… to say that this obviously was a motor vehicle. Even though he was living in it, it didn’t change the fact that he could drive on the highway and it could stay a motor vehicle at all times.”

The second point of Lucas’ argument was that the motor home owner violated state law because his speed loader was improperly stored in a drawstring bag, which wouldn’t qualify as a “separate container” as required by state statute.

Meanwhile, Langdon argued that that statute was invalid because the owner had the firearm for self-defense. Huh attempted to persuade judges that the motor vehicle did (or didn’t, depending on the round) qualify as a home with guaranteed rights protections.

All of the members of the team also participated in mock trial, which took place earlier in the school year. Both programs are sponsored by the Ohio Center for Law Related Education.

When asked about the skills she’s gained from the two extracurriculars, Langdon said she’s gotten a lot better at thinking on her feet. All of the students say their confidence has soared, as well as their teamwork.

“I think the farther we went, the more intense it got, the more we learned and we’re forced to work together,” said Lucas. “It definitely forced us to think outside the box and on the fly.”

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Katie Ellington: 740-397-5333 or katie@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @kt_ellington