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Appealing Courts

October 18, 1998|LAUREN PETERSON

There are tryouts, scrimmages, practice sessions and competitions.

In fact, just about everything Yasmin Fisher and Danielle De Smeth do on the court, they do in court.

Fisher and De Smeth, the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players for the Buena High girls' tennis team, also are members of the school's mock-trial team.

"Competing is competing," Fisher said. "It's just different clothes."

Teammates and friends, Fisher and De Smeth play tennis and the roles of attorneys with equal confidence.

Fisher, a junior, has a 26-2 record as the top player on Buena's 10-3 tennis team. She has been the No. 1 player and the Bulldogs' most valuable player the past two seasons. On the mock-trial team, Fisher, 16, is not a lead attorney, but will give the closing arguments for the prosecution.

De Smeth, a senior team captain and four-year varsity player, has a 27-7 record in singles and a 3-0 mark in doubles. She also makes a strong case for the defense.

De Smeth, 17, will be the lead attorney for the defense on the mock-trial team, performing two cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses, the direct examination of defense witnesses and the closing arguments for the defense at a Ventura County competition in February.

Until then, the mock-trial team--comprised of three attorneys each for the defense and prosecution and four witnesses for each side--will undergo instruction in legalese and coaching in the documentation and presentation of the facts of a case from real attorneys.

It is all in preparation for trying a mock case that will be presided over by real judges in Ventura County Government Center courtrooms. During the competition, teams will be judged and scored by panels of trial lawyers and higher-ranking legal officials, including county Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury.

"You actually become pretty knowledgeable about what goes on in court," De Smeth said. "After all your preparation, you almost feel like you could go in there and try a real case."

In her second year on the mock-trial team, De Smeth was selected best defense attorney last year, when Buena finished fourth among 16 schools in the competition.

The county winner goes on to state finals in Riverside. The state winner moves on to national competition.

"It's a big deal," said Ron Bamieh, a Ventura County deputy district attorney in his sixth year as Buena's mock-trial coach. "It allows students to learn the legal system and apply it. And it's very real, actually. It's about as real as you can get and be pretending."

Buena's team has been practicing about five hours a week since the first week of school.

"The preparation is the hard part, the competition is the fun part," Fisher said.

"Same as with tennis."

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