Bellarmine Campus in fall

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Mock Trial: Where are they now?

Summer 2019

CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM

Will Armstrong

William “Will” Armstrong ’00
Role: Witness, especially colorful characters
Currently: Unit business manager senior in the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville

“The fact we were from a small, liberal arts college from the South led to lots of preconceptions about us … If they couldn’t pronounce ‘Bellarmine’ correctly before, they surely could at the end of that amazing, magical season.”

Amanda Buffington

Amanda (Bennett) Buffinton ’99
Role: Witness, especially forensic economist
Currently: Board-certified construction attorney and partner at a 275-lawyer Florida law firm

“Most unpleasant occurrence? Eating at Cracker Barrel on Every. Single. Road. Trip.”

Jason Butler ’99
Role: Team captain, attorney on both plaintiff and defense sides
Currently: Self-employed independent contractor editing hornbooks and specialized legal texts for industrial and educational purposes; former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney

“It takes the scores of six people to win a round, and in ’99 we had no weaknesses—none at all.”

Nathaniel Cadle ’99
Role: Expert witness, especially physician and medical examiner
Currently: Earned Ph.D. in English; associate professor of English at Florida International University in Miami; teaches and researches American Literature

“I would advise today’s participants to enjoy the day-to-day moments of mock trial—it’s a unique opportunity to bond with smart, driven people who will go on to do exciting and important things with their lives.”

Vanessa (Cox) Cantley ’99
Role: Attorney on both sides
Currently: Trial attorney and founding partner of a plaintiff’s civil litigation firm; an active Louisville restaurateur; founder of Empathy in Action, a local nonprofit

“After losing in the national championship in 1998 (I still believe to this day we were the better team), we went into every round as if we were supposed to win, regardless of who was on the other side… it became known pretty quickly that, despite our name and school size, we were not to be
underestimated.”

Ryane Conroy ’00
Role: Attorney on both plaintiff and defense sides
Currently: Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, Violent Crimes Unit

“We won the coin toss before the final round and were able to choose Plaintiff. Everyone at our table knew what that meant we were awesome on that side—and started cheering and jumping around like crazy. I can remember looking over at Rhodes seeing our reaction and thinking they knew we were going to win in that moment.”


FIFTH-PLACE TEAM

John Balenovich ’01
Role: Defendant
Currently: Self-employed practicing attorney in Charleston, W. Va.; former assistant commonwealth’s attorney

“Jim Wagoner was so truly excited that we won the tournament … that he wrecked the rental car in the parking lot going down the twisty ramp and didn’t even care.”

Cheryl (Danner) Harrison ’99
Role: Witness, a forensic accountant
Currently: Senior litigation counsel at Baptist Healthcare System in Louisville

“I remember a run-in with a team member from Duke who was really smug … probably the attorney who was cross-examining me. I can’t recall the details, but do remember that I ended up outscoring him significantly…and feeling vindicated and exhilarated.”

Matt Rich ’00
Role: Attorney on both sides
Currently: Shareholder attorney at a litigation- and employment-focused Cincinnati law firm. As a mock trial coach for 20 years, he led Miami University (Ohio) to the 2018 National Mock Trial Championship.

“We stood on the shoulders of some amazing teams before us—Thad Keal and company—that didn’t win, but very well could have. It is a wonderful legacy at Bellarmine.”

Sarah (Wimsatt) Justice ’01, MBA ’04
Role: Witness
Currently: Project manager, Humana, HCS Solutions PMO; occasionally judges tourneys

“Mock trial is not just for people who want to go to law school. The things I learned about poise, composure and professional appearance have been invaluable and definitely put me ahead of my peers.”


COACHES

Jim Wagoner ’72
Role: Co-head coach; volunteer; attorney
Currently: Practicing law; still helping with mock trial team and recruiting judges

“The trophies and wins were great, but our legacy is the students and all they accomplished after graduation.”

Dr. Ruth Wagoner ’71
Role: Co-head coach; full professor at Bellarmine
Currently: Professor Emerita, retired from BU in 2016; retired from coaching mock trial in 2008

“Jim and I share the belief that Bellarmine students are as good or better than students elsewhere…The choice we made to coach at a nationally competitive level meant we gave it priority over many other things in life.”

Jason Cooper ’96
Role: Coached from 1997-2006 after competing in mock trial as a student
Currently: Owner-operator of a small business; judges local tournaments

“The bond that exists among mock trial-ers is unique and long-term. The friendship and loyalty between those who competed together are strong and enduring.”


Note: Heather (Jackson) Hood ’00, David Chamberlin ’01 and Christi (Spurlock) Cole ’99 either could not be reached or did not respond to an inquiry.

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