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HCS Law Academies Face Off in State Competition, Now Head to National Events

HCS Law Academies

December 2019
Ian Thompson, C.R.E.W.

[HOOVER] - “It’s like a family, honestly,” Hoover City Schools junior Anna Claypoole said.

“We spend so much time together preparing cases and practicing that it’s impossible not to love every person on our team. The students are my best friends, and the teachers, as well as the coaches, are always there for us, pushing us to be the best we can.”

Claypoole speaks of the Hoover High School Law Academy.  Her sentiments, however, are echoed by students throughout both law academies at Hoover’s two high schools.

Both Spain Park and Hoover high schools have enjoyed significant success at mock trial tournaments this year, including State, where Spain Park defeated Hoover in the final mock trial in early November in Montgomery in front of 630 students, coaches, family members and friends.

Hoover High was rated the Top Defense Team in the State and Spain Park was the Top Prosecution Team, so they met in the final.  The case? A vehicular manslaughter scenario where the driver, through legal manevering, avoids prosecution. Again, this is a *mock* trial.

As victors, Spain Park will now represent Alabama at the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Evansville, Ind. in May.  The Hoover High School Law Academy, meanwhile, will be one of several teams to represent Alabama at the YMCA National Judicial Conference in Chicago next summer.

Additionally at State, Spain Park won the Junior "Premier" Division (primarily Freshmen teams) Defense Award and Hoover came in second on the Prosecution side, while Spain Park also took one of the Best Witness Awards and one of the Best Attorney Awards.

Both schools also had other teams in the top 10 and students serving as Judges and Bailiffs.

Craig Thompson heads up Spain Park’s Law Academy, while Wes Cable is his counterpart at Hoover HS.

Spain Park High School

Spain Park’s Law Academy may not be quite as established as Hoover’s, but they wasted little time in hitting the ground running.

“When the Law Academy began at Spain Park in 2007, it deliberately mirrored Hoover’s,” Thompson, who teaches multiple Law Academy classes and AP History, said.

Phillip Pate and Dr. Jennifer Smith also teach Law Academy classes at Spain Park.

“We’ve been lucky enough to win State seven out of ten times,” Thompson noted. “And have got to experience Nationals at venues all over the country, which is always an incredible experience.

“The way these students prepare (for the mock trial); the way they carry themselves; the power with which they project their voices and the confidence this all instills in them is really something.”

Thompson noted that the Law Academy totals approximately 150 students, with as many as 80-85 actively involved in mock trials. 

“We are student-driven and have built a tradition of success. The students will not all go on to study law, but the ability to speak clearly and coherently; to think on their feet at trial; and that words really do matter will be assets to them whatever course of study and profession they choose.”

Law Academy is truly a passion for the students.

“Spain Park is such a big school, but being in Law Academy creates a school within a school atmosphere that is very helpful when coming into a place like Spain Park,” Morgan Patrick, Mock Trial Captain, said.

“As a freshman, I did not know what to expect from an academy, but I noticed the bond that the upperclassmen had and I knew I wanted that during my high school career.”

“Whether you’re doing a cross-examination, direct, or statement in a trial, you know that all eyes are on you and this feeling is especially intensified in the final trial,” Vincent Indovina, Closing Attorney, Spain Park HS, said. “There is a weird rush you get when you get a witness to do exactly what you want them to do or you see a jury member’s eyes widen and jaw drop during your statement. There are few things that are more rewarding than preparing for a case and then seeing all of that preparation in action.” 

“Being an attorney definitely brings on a mix of emotions. When you are crushing it on a cross, you can feel super confident and powerful,” Anna Kate Morris, Attorney, Spain Park HS, said. “If an objection doesn’t go your way or you don’t get the answer you want from a witness, you can get a little rattled. Before trial is when I am always the most anxious, but after you do your part and even while you are doing it, it just becomes fun.”

Hoover High School 

Cable and some of his students echoed the thoughts of Thompson and some of his students.

Hoover’s Law Academy is also over 150-strong, with Amy Newell, Richard Sturgeon and David Head assisting Cable as fellow teachers.

Cable noted the Law Academy started 15 years ago and this four-year elective program features a different area of law in each class. Law I focuses on an introduction to law and critical thinking and how the law applies in the workplace and everyday life.

Law II features philosophy and ethics; Law III evidence and investigation; and Law IV constitutional law. 

Like Spain Park, Hoover places a strong emphasis on mock trials and even hosts its own tournament, the Birmingham Area Mock Trial Invitational (BAMTI). 

“At a mock trial, there are six students on a team,” Cable explained. “Three attorneys and three witnesses. Students must learn to prepare and give opening statements; direct exam and cross-exam witnesses; give a closing statement; and so much more.

“Preparation is key. In fact, the entire Law Academy, whether they are going to the State mock trial or not, will prepare for it. They all learn this way. These skill sets are vital and so helpful in high school, college and beyond.”

His students concurred…

“Aside from consuming about half of my résumé, Law Academy has helped me develop as a writer, orator, and person. Junior year has been crazy busy, and, on top of the normal course load, staying up all night working on a speech or writing a cross is definitely not easy. The payoff is amazing though. Being a part of Law Academy has pushed me to develop a drive for things that I’m passionate about. If I’m doing something I love, I could care less about how much time it consumes or how difficult it is. The unmitigated ambition which Law Academy has instilled in me will help me in any path I choose to pursue,” Claypoole said.

“Law Academy has helped change me as a person. I've spent so many hours practicing and perfecting with my teammates that pieces of them will be with me wherever I go, and I'm grateful for that, ” Isabella Torres, Hoover HS, said. 

“I must say being on the stand is exhilarating. Being an attorney, delivering a closing or a cross-examination, is terrifying in the best kind of way.”

HHS (Top Defense Team)
Anna Claypoole
Isabella Torres
Karim Panjawani
Brady Coltrane                
Justin La Porta                          
Nadeem Jaber   

SPHS (Top Prosecution Team)
Vincent Indovina
Morgan Patrick 
Dominique Thomas 
Anna Kate Morris 
Megan Miles
Jake Wilson