Letters

Mr. Running's comments demonstrate an abysmal lack of knowledge of the purpose of the high school mock trial program. Surely, he could not have sat in on very many sessions with attorney coaches.

Other than Mr. Running's remarks, I thought Mr. Ortega's article was well done and demonstrated the effort that the students, teachers and attorney coaches put into this program.

Edward O. Burke
Phoenix

Given the portrayal of attorney coaches in Tony Ortega's article "I Totally Object," we should be thankful that our names weren't mentioned in the article. But, because we are extremely proud of our team and its accomplishments, we lay claim to the fact that we are the attorney coaches of the Xavier mock trial team. While we beg to differ with the author's critique that the program teaches high school students the less desirable characteristics of lawyers, we are particularly concerned about the author's obvious sexist portrayal of the young women participating in this program. We take particular offense at the remarks given that we probably coach the only all-girls team in the state.

On several occasions, this article perpetuates unflattering stereotypes of female attorneys. Ortega characterizes the cross-examination between students from Central and Chaparral as "particularly bitchy." If Ortega had witnessed the same questions asked by a male attorney, the word "bitchy" would surely have been replaced with "aggressive" or some other less-sexist, more flattering adjective. We had the opportunity to compete against both these teams, and all the female members of the team were assertive, professional and poised.

We are even more appalled, however, by the manner in which Ortega first introduces the reader to our team: "Squeezed into their power suits with short skirts and dark hose . . . putting Ally McBeal to shame." First, we can assure you that there was nothing inappropriate about the way our team was dressed for the competition. Second, the only detailed reference to what team members were wearing was directed at our team--the only all-girls team in the competition. This comment has caused the young women on our team pain and disappointment. Instead of focusing on the consummate skill they displayed after spending hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing for the regional and state tournaments, this article memorializes what they wore.

Finally, with all due respect to Mr. Running, the teacher-coach for Xavier's program, we must sharply disagree with his interpretation of what we teach our students. His comments do great disrespect to the hundreds of volunteer attorney coaches who give up weekends, nights, and hundreds of hours to help foster a respect and an appreciation of our legal system. Neither of us has ever or will ever instruct these young women that lying is the way to approach the problems. The team that strays from the affidavits provided or makes unreasonable inferences from the record will find themselves losers in this program. In fact, lying in the mock trial context does nothing but lower a team's scores.

Our team is a winner in all respects and they deserved better representation in this article.

Lisa J. Counters, Esq.
Dawson & Rosenthal
Phoenix

Michael Storie
O'Connor Cavanagh
Phoenix

Tony Ortega responds: Counters and Storie fail to note the lines following the observation that a Chaparral attorney was engaged in a "bitchy cross-examination." Central High School coach Diana Krauss explains that the female students "need to be careful or they come off that way." The article was attempting to make the point that an aggressive female attorney can come off "bitchy," something male attorneys aren't burdened with. Perhaps the point was too subtle for Counters and Storie. As for describing what the Xavier team wore, I can only plead guilty for trying to set a scene that accurately portrayed the moment. Nothing inappropriate about their dress was implied. The Xavier team had a great court presence, and their clothing seemed to enhance that. Somehow Counters and Storie missed the other compliments the article paid to the Xavier team members on their prowess as attorneys. They also apparently skipped past descriptions of what other students were wearing, including male participants.

This letter is in response to your article "I Totally Object." As a member of mock trial at Mountain Ridge High School, I was mildly offended by Steve Running's assumption that the mock trial program breeds liars and swindlers, "Johnnie Cochranes," as it was written. For all those not involved, this may appear the case. Mock trial is not a celebration of dishonesty. It is an act, pure and simple. It is a competitive dramatic production that just happens to take place in a courtroom. Most of us don't even intend to become lawyers. We were just blessed with oratory skills and presence, and mock trial is an amazing forum in which to display our talent. We are not conditioned liars; we are merely taught to think on our feet. Isn't that a good skill that everyone should know? There is nothing wrong with healthy competition, and that's exactly what mock trial is all about. My teammates and I have the utmost respect for all of the teams (especially Xavier, Deer Valley and Central). I also believe that anyone who witnesses one of our trials would have the same high regard for this program as I do.

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