Morrisville >> Inside the district courtroom on East Cleveland Avenue, Judge Mick Petrucci listened as a team of lawyers laid out their case against a defendant who they say defamed their client.
But this was no ordinary courtroom drama as seventh and eighth graders from Holy Trinity School took on the roles of attorney, plaintiff, witness and defendant, with sixth grade students and faculty members acting as jurors.
In the Mock Trial case of “Podle v. Jansen,” presided over by real life Newtown area judge Mick Petrucci, Whirlwind High School math teacher Mary Podle (portrayed by seventh grader Aimee Oszer) is suing student Carter Jansen (portrayed by seventh grader George Lobis) for defamation and libel over an award-winning story Carter wrote about a fictional teacher named Mrs. Poodle. The story won Carter first place and a college scholarship in the Teen Literature Association’s national competition, which published his story online.
Although Carter said it was a simple, innocent story about a fictional character, Mrs. Podle claimed many think it’s about her and that it had besmirched her good name and reputation. Podle cited several similarities between her and the fictional character named Mrs. Poodle, including the names and the use of a catch phrase frequently used by Podle. She argued that the character in the story, portrayed in a less than flattering way, had harmed her reputation.
When Mrs. Podle demanded that the story be taken off the website, Carter defended his work, saying it was a story merely from his imagination and that the First Amendment allowed him freedom of expression.
The plaintiff presented two witnesses - Mary Podle and Mayor Hugh Trunks (portrayed by seventh grader James Beltle) while the defense team called Carter and Robert Barr (portrayed by seventh grader Leonard Zuniga), literary adviser for the Teen Literature Association - before delivering their closing statements.
It took the jury of six graders about 15 minutes to reach a verdict, noting that it had no bearing on how each side presented its case.
“During their deliberations, the sixth graders talked about the facts and did a very good job asking the right questions,” revealed attorney, parent volunteer and mentor Cori Martin, who couldn’t have been more pleased with how the students examined the facts and came to a determination. “Our teachers didn’t have to participate. The kids talked it all out.”
Read the full story online at BucksLocalNews.com