By Elizabeth Sias
In the center of the room, Lucas Parsons sits on the witness stand.
Attorney Brady Anderson stands and examines his paperwork, then proceeds to question the witness.
This is a standard afternoon practice session for the Cambridge-Isanti Mock Trial team, which took third in the Mississippi 8 Conference this year — after taking fourth last year — and are having a winning season under the direction of Coach Chad Filley.
“I’m excited about where we’re at,” Filley said. “We’ve gone further than any team has in the past and the kids are really into it.”
The team has been practicing after school two or three times a week in preparation for the upcoming regional competition in mid-February. If they win, they’ll head to state.
“He has done a really nice job with the kids in his two years as coach,” said Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad, who has worked alongside Filley for many of the practices to observe and mentor the team. “I appreciate he and the team getting recognition for their accomplishments.”
Each team consists of at least three lawyers, three witnesses, a bailiff and a time-keeper. Half of the team works with the defendant while the other half works with the plaintiff on the same mock case, which alternates yearly between criminal and civil cases.
Tenth grader Morgan Engren is in her second year on the team, this time acting as a witness for the plaintiff.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I like to practice my public speaking.”
In this year’s civil lawsuit, a police officer alleges he was terminated from employment because of an inappropriate post he made on a social networking website, while the chief of police claims he was fired because he wasn’t doing his job.
“It’s a combination of drama — because the witnesses have to be actors — debate and speech,” Filley said. “It’s all done in the format of a trial, and you have to be prepared for both sides.”
The team had several months before the conference meet to read over the case, research related laws or cases, devise strategies to argue the two sides and conduct practice mock trials.
Filley’s son Tyrel got involved on the team when his dad started coaching last year. The 11th grader said he has enjoyed it ever since, and he’s learned a lot about law from his time on the team.
“It’s invaluable in practicing skills like public speaking,” Tyrel said. “It’s good for thinking on your feet and critical thinking. It’s just fun.”
In a competition, all team members are scored in several ways. For instance, lawyers are scored on how they examine their own witnesses and how they cross examine the other side’s witnesses.
Coach Filley doesn’t want to speculate on whether they’ll win regions and head to state, but he said he’s proud of how far the team has come.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth in the kids,” he said. “They have pride in it, and that’s really cool.”